Windsor-Essex network builds resilient women entrepreneurs

Rebecca Wright 

Postmedia Content Works 

Ongoing prosperity in Windsor-Essex is linked to increased participation by women in the economy, according to Sabrina DeMarco, executive director of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre, a division of Invest WindsorEssex. 

“This includes the broader workforce, but particularly in positions of leadership, business and entrepreneurship,” says DeMarco.“Ensuring women are represented in all industry sectors of the economy, particularly in emerging technology, is critically important for future commerce and innovation.” 

This year, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the women in the community and their achievements despite the ongoing COVID crisis, says Lee McGrath, program director for the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy at the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre. 

McGrath says there has been many new women-led businesses that have opened – along with existing businesses evolving – through technology adoption. During such uncertain times, this speaks to the resilience of women-led small businesses and their continued growth. 

“As we wrap up the third year of the funding provided to Windsor-Essex through the Government of Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, we are excited to see the progress in our community,” McGrath notes.“International Women’s Day is about raising awareness and continuing the work with women of all ages to reach economic security. Although we have made progress towards achieving gender equality, we are not there yet.” 

The campaign theme for International Women’s Day for 2022 is #BreaktheBias, and to kick off the events in Windsor-Essex McGrath says Senator Kim Pate will be addressing the community on the topic of “substantive equality via economic class, racial and gender equality.” 

RISE Windsor-Essex, founded by Invest WindsorEssex and led by its Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre, functions in partnership with the University of Windsor’s EPICentre, Workforce WindsorEssex, WEtech Alliance, Build a Dream and Windsor Essex Capital Angel Network (WECAN).  

Collectively, the organizations of RISE Windsor-Essex have helped 3,300 women start new businesses, grow existing businesses and strengthen their entrepreneurial skills, according to McGrath. This has been accomplished through four streams focused on youth, startup, scale-up and growth.Events, workshops and activities related to outreach, business development training, financial bootcamps, mentorship, networking and data collection have all served as supports as well. 

“Windsor-Essex is a community of diversity, and an increasing number of women are contributing to the economy by pursuing forward-thinking entrepreneurial endeavours,” says McGrath. “Economic development strategies for women that include supports for business from early stage through scale-up will strengthen the region.” 

McGrath says initiatives such as RISE Windsor-Essex, which is a network of organizations that are empowering women in entrepreneurship, are helping to push the economy forward through progressive female business ventures.  

“Supporting women-owned businesses is an important part of economic development,” McGrath says.“This initiative strengthens our community and fosters enhanced economic growth and innovation.” 

Women face unique social and economic challenges including fair access to capital, training and participation in the economy, McGrath notes, so she says it’s imperative to have programs in place to support women with their entrepreneurial goals. 

While International Women’s Day is an excellent time to reflect and highlight women’s efforts and strengths, prioritizing and celebrating women’s contribution to the economy should not be a one-day-a-year event, says McGrath. 

“Acknowledging the importance of women’s contribution to the economic stability and growth in the region is a daily priority for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre and Invest WindsorEssex,” McGrath states. 

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of RISE Windsor-Essex. 

RISE Windsor-Essex International Women’s Day feature in the Windsor Star

RISE WindsorEssex International Women's Day 2022 campaign in the Windsor Star.