Women’s Enterprise BC offers national loan program

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

February is Women in Business Month. Times certainly have changed for the better. Over the last few decades, a woman’s dream to become a successful business owner has become a reality for many. 

Women’s Enterprise BC (WeBC) is levelling the playing field by giving British Columbia (B.C.) business owners access to the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) National Loan Program. Funded by the Government of Canada’s women entrepreneurship loan fund, this unsecured loan program aims to reduce financing barriers for women and non-binary entrepreneurs to provide them with better access to capital to grow and maintain their dream businesses.

The WEOC National Loan program will distribute over $30 million in loans and give out individual loans up to $50,000 to hundreds of women and non-binary business owners across Canada.

“This loan fund is a game changer for women entrepreneurs in Canada, enabling women to start their businesses and capitalize on growth opportunities,” said Alison Kirkland, WEOC chief executive officer (CEO), in a December news release. “Designed with a holistic approach, the WEOC national loan program provides entrepreneurs with financing, paired with wraparound services that help ensure continued long-term growth and success.”

We BC’s WEOC’s regional loan fund partner in B.C. will be the direct contact, and work with women entrepreneurs in B.C. at every stage of the application process and offer wraparound business support, including complimentary business advisory services, skills development and mentorship.

“Funding women and non-binary entrepreneurs goes beyond simply handing over the money. At WeBC, we help the client to gather the information they need to apply for funding and provide support through the application process from beginning to end,” said Shauna Harper, chief executive officer (CEO), WeBC, in a news release in December 2022. “We know this model improves women entrepreneurs’ chances of financial success and reduces barriers to financing. We’re building a community of women who feel supported long term, who have the mentors, networks, and education to grow their small businesses.”

WeBC, formerly called the Women’s Enterprise Centre, is a not-for-profit (organization). Through their work with regional partners, they have provided thousands of women entrepreneurs with business loans, expertise, training, resources and peer network support to help their businesses grow and flourish. 

The model for the WeBC loan program has created more opportunities per dollar lent than any other federally-funded loan program. This program has helped many women; it has been a success story for East Kootenay’s Florence Desrochers, owner of Mugshots Cafe in Fernie, B.C.

“From the start, WeBC has been more than a loan provider. They offered me support with my business plan and helped me make my dream a reality,” said Desrochers, in December. “It can be quite a challenge to get a loan when you are young and looking to open your first restaurant. The banks were turning me down, but WeBC believed in my project. I started my business in the middle of the pandemic and I had to face a lot of challenges, from staffing shortages to mandated lockdowns. Thankfully, WeBC offered ongoing training to give me the tools that I needed to overcome them. Their mentor program was especially important to me as I was matched with another restaurant owner with whom I was able to chat about the various challenges I had to face.”