Government of Canada supports recovery and growth of women-led businesses across Ontario amid COVID-19 pandemic

News release

Minister Mary Ng announces Ontario recipients of $4.8 million Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund top-up to support women entrepreneurs in Ontario to adapt and grow

March 4, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario

Canadian women entrepreneurs are critical to the economic success of communities across the country. At the same time, they often face unique barriers when starting and growing their businesses and have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Canada has long supported women entrepreneurs, and is committed to making the necessary investments to position them for success in the future.

Today, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, announced the 16 recipients of the $4.8 million in top-up funding the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund in Ontario to support women entrepreneurs to navigate this crisis. This investment represents a top-up to the over $32 million in WES funding previously provided to these organizations.

The top-up funding aims to strengthen the women entrepreneurship ecosystem in Ontario, better enabling collaboration for women entrepreneurs, through coaching, mentorship and networking opportunities. This will be particularly important for women seizing growth opportunities in new or emerging markets as the economy recovers from COVID-19.

Supporting women entrepreneurs through a collaborative ecosystem

Minister Ng made today’s announcement at the StrikeUP 2021 conference, hosted by the original 19 WES Ecosystem Recipients and led by Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation. Made possible through the WES Ecosystem Fund top-up investment, StrikeUP 2021 is a virtual conference dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs and providing a forum to build capacity and foster collaboration across the ecosystem. Minister Ng kicked off the event and announced the top-up funding. The Minister also participated in an engaging fireside discussion with Wendy Curtis, Executive Director of Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation to discuss women’s economic empowerment and federal commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs. 


“Women entrepreneurs have faced unique challenges during this pandemic, and I am thrilled our government is able to provide these critical investments so women-led businesses can continue contributing to Canada's economic future. Women entrepreneurs want to continue building their businesses, and we will be there to help them build back better.”
- The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade

"We understand the challenges all businesses are facing during the pandemic, and those challenges are only amplified for women entrepreneurs. The investments made today through FedDev Ontario’s and FedNor’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund top-up will continue to support women-led businesses with training, mentorship and networking opportunities as they weather this pandemic and plan for a strong economic recovery."
- The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

“With this collaborative WES movement across Ontario, we are confident together we can harness the full potential of women-led businesses in driving economic prosperity and economic recovery. Partnerships like this are a direct reflection of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy in action - providing full access to an ecosystem across financing, networks, expertise and talent. We would like to thank the Government of Canada for their support to bring the StrikeUP Conference into fruition and the continued focus on women’s economic empowerment.”
-  Wendy Curtis, Executive Director, Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation

Quick facts

  • In Canada’s Speech from the Throne, COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, and the Fall Economic Statement 2020, the Government of Canada reiterated its commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs in getting through the COVID-19 crisis, through various measures including accelerating the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.

  • An overall investment of nearly $5 billion in the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy reinforces the Government of Canada’s commitment to increasing access to financing, talent, networks and expertise that women-owned businesses need to start up, scale up and access new markets.

  • The regional development agencies are delivering on the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy across Canada. In southern Ontario, FedDev Ontario invested close to $39 million to support 121 businesses and organizations through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy in 2019. In Northern Ontario, FedNor invested $1.8 million as part of the Entrepreneurship Fund to support 23 businesses in 2019.

  • In May 2020, an additional $15 million in national funding was made available to Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund recipients to provide timely support and advice to women entrepreneurs facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Associated links


Catherine Mounier-Desrochers
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Media Relations
FedDev Ontario
Toll Free: 1-866-593-5505

Media Relations
FedNor Media Relations
Toll-free: 1-877-333-6673 ext. 6507

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