Are you a Canadian woman looking for a small business loan? That’s the focus of this article - small business loans and business assistance that is only available to women. Other sources of business financing and assistance in Canada that are available to both women and men, such as the Canada Small Business Financing Program to name just one, are not presented here. (For more sources of small business loans and business assistance programs, see my Small Business Financing library.)
These small business loans for women are available only to women owned businesses (or women about to start a woman owned business). That is, the business must be 50 percent or more owned or controlled by a woman or women. Where you live also matters, as some women’s small business loan programs are only available to residents of particular areas.
But the good news is that if you are a woman looking to start a business or expand an existing small business, small business loans are available - and even the occassional small business grant. See if you fit the criteria for any of the following programs.
Small Business Loans for Women in Eastern Canada
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)Women in Business Initiative
The ACOA Women in Business Initiative focuses on improving the access of women to business financing. To do this, ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) has partnered with Development Corporations throughout the region.
There are more than 40 Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) in the region as well as a multitude of urban lenders who are part of the program.
Small Business Loans for Women in Central Canada
Located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Paro Centre operates over 30 peer lending circles throughout the Thunder Bay, Greenstone, Patricia and Superior North regions. These groups of four to seven women meet monthly to "exchange advice, provide support, approve and guarantee each other's loans and monitor payments".
If you are a woman who wants to become economically independent by starting a business or finding a job, Paro also operates the Gateway: A Path to Self Employment program which offers business development programming to women in Thunder Bay and area who are unemployed and eligible for Employment Insurance (EI), have been eligible on EI in the last three years or have been on maternity benefits in the last five years. Women receive Self-Employment Benefits (SEB) for the duration of the program.
Entrepreneuriat au féminin - CLD de Portneuf (Website available in French only.)
Small business loans are available for women entrepreneurs who wish to start or develop a business through the local investment fund of the Portneuf CLD.
Small Business Loans for Women in Western Canada
Women's Enterprise Initiative Loan Program (Western Economic Diversification Canada (WEDC))
The non-profit Women's Economic Initiative (WEI) has offices in each of the four western provinces and provides small business loans for women, as well as business information, advisory services and training options for women business owners. Their small business loans for women will provide debt financing of up to $100,000 for for start-up, expansion or the purchase of an existing business.
The following Women's Enterprise Centres administer the program (and provide a host of other services for women entrepreneurs):
Small business loans for women up to a maximum of $100,000 are provided to help start, purchase or grow a viable business. You need to be able to demonstrate that your business idea is realistic and that you’re prepared to commit to it by submitting a comprehensive business plan along with your loan application.
AWE provides women entrepreneurs in Alberta with small business loans of up to $100,000. AWE will assign you a Business Advisor when you apply who will lead you through the preparation of a business plan and the loans process.
Women who wish to start, buy or already own a business in Saskatchewan can apply for small business loans of up to $100,000. You must work with a Business Advisor prior to applying for a loan.
Like the other Enterprise Centres, the Manitoba Centre provides women with small business loans of up to $100,000. If you are applying for a loan of over $10,000, you will need too submit a completed business plan with your loan application. A Business Analyst will work with you throughout the process.
Remember that the potential sources of small business financing listed here are by no means the only sources of small business loans for women entrepreneurs in Canada – it’s just that these programs are especially designed to help women start and grow their own businesses. And almost all of them offer support and advice as well as money to help your small business succeed.