Federal funding for women entrepreneurs in Kingston

Federal funding for women entrepreneurs in Kingston

Queen’s University to receive up to $3.2M to support and strengthen business ventures led by women.

By Dave Rideout

August 20, 2019


Women entrepreneurs in and around Kingston will receive increased support with the announcement of up to $3.2 million in funding for Queen’s University from FedDev Ontario. The funding, conditional on a signed contribution agreement, will support and strengthen programs and services for women entrepreneurs. Distributed as part of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund, the investment will assist Queen’s and its partners to design and deliver programs and services to accelerate, train, mentor, and provide resources to women-led companies in the community.

“The women entrepreneurs and business leaders of Kingston and the Islands make incredible contributions to our economy and community every day,” says Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands. “I’m proud that our current Government takes women’s economic empowerment seriously. From tackling pay equity to modernizing parental leave, this government is taking action on gender equality because when women succeed, we all succeed.”

The funding will go toward supporting three groups of women entrepreneurs in Kingston and region, including those who have founded or lead technology companies, Indigenous women entrepreneurs, and recent women graduates from Queen’s University who are starting a business in Kingston.

“It is one of my own priorities to strengthen the region’s innovation ecosystem through the provision of support, services, and programming to entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs, and importantly, in ways that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen's. “With the help of the federal government and FedDev Ontario, Queen’s and our partners will contribute to the growth of an ecosystem that enables diverse and underrepresented entrepreneurs to thrive.”

The Queen’s team for this initiative includes the Office of Partnerships and Innovation (OPI) (project lead), the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC), the Smith School of Business, and the Queen’s Business Law Clinic (QBLC). Partner organizations supporting the project include the Kingston Economic Development Corporation, Launch Lab, the Southeastern Ontario Angel Network (SOAN), Okwaho Equal Source, and L-SPARK.

For women entrepreneurs in tech, the OPI will launch new programs commencing this autumn. Investments will support the provision of physical spaces for startups, legal services via QBLC, workshops, training, networking opportunities, and a database of resources. Additionally, the OPI will work with L-SPARK to develop and deliver an acceleration program in Kingston with a focus on providing enhanced mentorship to women entrepreneurs who have (co-)founded and/or lead post-revenue companies that are in tech sectors.

For Indigenous women entrepreneurs, the OPI will provide access to its incubation program and services, and will work with partner Okwaho Equal Source — a local and global agency focused on enabling access to relevant programming for Indigenous entrepreneurs — to provide various programs and services. These will include the development and delivery of a culturally appropriate and meaningful acceleration program.

Recent women Queen’s graduates who are starting a business in Kingston will benefit from a newly-established DDQIC program, Konnect, which will be developed and delivered with the assistance of WES funding. Participants will gain access to mentorship opportunities, skill-building activities, interactive workshops, networking, and a series of guest speakers spanning 12 topics relating to women’s entrepreneurship set to begin in October 2019.

Additionally, the OPI, Launch Lab, SOAN, and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation will provide mentorship and connections to all three groups of women entrepreneurs, including support for protection and commercialization of intellectual property, investor preparation, market expansion, and growth in operations. Partners will also collaborate to organize networking events to support the development of the women entrepreneurs’ ecosystem in Kingston.

MP Gerretsen and Dr. Woodhouse formally announced the federal funding during an event at Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Tuesday, Aug. 20. Speakers at the event included women entrepreneurs Lisa Hallsworth, CEO of Rillea Technologies; Christa Wallbridge, CEO of The Power Collective; and Shyra Barberstock, President and co-founder of Okwaho Equal Source.

“This important funding will enable Queen’s and its partners to design and deliver programs and services to accelerate the growth of several companies, in Kingston and region, that are founded or led by women entrepreneurs,” says Janice Mady, Director, Research and Innovation Partnerships, who led the development of the proposal for funding. “At a high level, activities under this program will include: incubation and acceleration programs; training and workshops; access to mentors and resources; development, management and dissemination of a resource database; and the delivery of networking events to support the development of a women’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

Visit the Government of Canada website to learn more about the WES Ecosystem Fund.