By Courtney Bettin
(AJNews) – Women entrepreneurs are, luckily, no longer a needle in a haystack. They’re making serious strides, with women-owned businesses contributing over $150 billion to the Canadian economy. Here in Alberta, standing behind those women is Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a non-profit organization that works hard to ensure that women have access to the help they need.
Over the past 27 years, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs has grown and adapted to the ever-evolving needs of women entrepreneurs in Alberta. AWE strives to bring capacity-building solutions so that women can strengthen their skills, improve financial and digital literacy, and find the resources that are needed to adapt and thrive in a fast-evolving world. AWE also provides access to funding through unique lending programs.
The core of everything AWE does, however, is based on creating a sense of community. Financial support can only go so far, and it’s critical that women entrepreneurs have the underlying tools and skills they need to maneuver their professional goals. Having a network made up of experts, community members, and other entrepreneurs makes for a stronger business.
“The impact is always larger when it’s a community effort,” says Nicole Cayanan, Financing Specialist for AWE. “It’s impossible to assume that an entrepreneur would know how to run all aspects of their business. That’s where the community comes in and helps fill in those knowledge gaps, supports that woman entrepreneur when they’re going through challenges, and praises them when they experience a great success.”
Part of celebrating that success means highlighting the work of extraordinary women entrepreneurs in the province, something AWE does every year at the AWE Awards Celebration. Shining a spotlight on leaders from across Alberta shows a visible path for those looking to follow in their footsteps.
“I think specifically for women-owned small businesses, they end up encouraging other women who want to start a small business as well, their neighbours, and their daughters,” says Cayanan. “That increases the impact on the economy as a whole. It’s a domino effect.”
Those that participate in the programs that AWE has to offer will all realize one thing, and that’s that they’re in it for the long haul. Long after the loan has been dispersed and the courses are finished, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs makes it a point to continue a lasting relationship with their clients.
“There are many specific obstacles that women have to overcome as entrepreneurs,” says Cayanan. “They’re often juggling a lot of personal responsibilities along with their business responsibilities, and we just want them to be seen and heard.”