Minister Valdez kicks off Small Business Week and announces nearly $3 million in funding to support women entrepreneurs across Canada

News release

October 16, 2023 – Montréal, Quebec 

Small businesses aren’t a “small” part of our economy—they make up 98% of all businesses in Canada. That’s why it’s so important to support Canada’s entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially women entrepreneurs, because an inclusive economy is a strong economy.

Today, the Honourable Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business, kicked off Small Business Week 2023 by announcing that the École des entrepreneurs du Québec (EEQ) [French page] is receiving $2.7 million to help women entrepreneurs start a business and put their plans for growth into action.

This funding, coming through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund, will help support the EEQ’s FAIR.E project, which consists of three transformational learning programs:

  • Make the move to launch your business—for those who have an idea or project but don’t know where to start
  • Make your business thrive—for those facing challenges in reaching set targets and looking to increase their profits and customer base
  • Make it grow—for those facing challenges in growing their business and moving from strategy to execution

The programs will serve up to 1,800 women in six provinces: Quebec, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The WES Ecosystem Fund supports projects that help close service gaps for women in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and give them access to the support they need. Since its launch in 2018, it has helped more than 10,000 women start new businesses and more than 12,000 women grow their existing ones.

These initiatives build on the historic investments the government has made to support women since 2015, including legislating pay equity, enhancing the Canada Child Benefit, providing special funding to support women entrepreneurs during the pandemic, establishing agreements across the country for provinces and territories to provide $10-a-day child care, and committing over $530 million for a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

As we enter another Small Business Week, Minister Valdez also highlighted how the Government of Canada is supporting small businesses as they adapt to current challenges like high interest rates and inflation. With measures like securing deals with major credit card companies to lower transaction fees and further extending the repayment deadline for Canada Emergency Business Account loans, the government is helping ensure small businesses from coast to coast can adapt and thrive.


“I’m happy to kick off Small Business Week 2023 by making such a fitting announcement to support women entrepeneurs alongside the EEQ. Today’s announcement is great news for nearly 2,000 women-owned businesses across Canada and is another concrete step our government is taking to break down the barriers women face when starting their own business. Supporting an inclusive economy means supporting a stronger economy that will help create good middle-class jobs for Canadians across the country. I invite Canadians to join me this week and every week in supporting local businesses and celebrating their invaluable contributions to our economy and communities.”
– The Honourable Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business

“Today’s announcement demonstrates our government’s continued commitment to promoting the full and equal participation of women in our economy. For the women entrepreneurs of Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel, this financial support will enable them to put in place the tools they need to start or expand their businesses.”
– Patricia Lattanzio, Member of Parliament for Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel

“The EEQ has been committed to transferring its know-how to local economic development organizations for many years. We think that each region has a unique reality and that work to support and advance entrepreneurship should be done on the ground. Our goal of best serving entrepreneurs of all types is what’s driving us to join forces with economic development partners nationally and internationally. Together, we’re acting as agents of change for entrepreneurs, helping make them more confident, knowledgeable and resilient in an ever-evolving world. This financial support from the Government of Canada is a key element in the development and success of a project of this scope.”
– Michel Fortin, Executive Director, École des entrepreneurs du Québec

Quick facts

  • Small Business Week has been a registered trademark of the Business Development Bank of Canada since 1986.

  • The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) is a nearly $7 billion investment that includes:

    • the Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, which is enabling existing women-focused loan programs to provide additional affordable microloans to women entrepreneurs;
    • the Inclusive Women Venture Capital Initiative, which seeks to broaden access to funding and build a more inclusive venture capital environment for Canadian women;
    • the WES Ecosystem Fund, which is helping remove barriers to the support networks and deliver the resources that women entrepreneurs need to start up, scale up and access new markets; and
    • the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, which has brought together 10 regional hubs, over 300 organizations and thousands of women entrepreneurs to create a more inclusive and supportive environment to grow women’s entrepreneurship in Canada.
  • The government is also investing in removing systemic barriers faced by diverse entrepreneurs through programs like the Black Entrepreneurship Program and the 2SLGBTQI+ Entrepreneurship Program.

  • To ensure women have equal access to the benefits and opportunities arising from international investment, Canada is taking an inclusive approach to trade by integrating gender-related provisions in all its free trade agreements. The government has also co-signed the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement.

Associated links


Nadine Ramadan
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Small Business

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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