IWEF helping Indigenous businesswomen with ideas and access to financing

The Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship Fund (IWEF) was created by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business’ (CCAB) to help Indigenous women who have traditionally faced significant obstacles accessing financing. IWEF is helping out with an application process for 20 lottery-drawn $2,000 grants.

The fund, which is presented by LNG Canada with a contribution from Paper Excellence, is open to Indigenous women-owned businesses that have encountered systemic barriers to lending relationships and have been impacted by the pandemic.

“Women are elemental in the achievement of Indigenous economic prosperity yet, securing affordable financing remains one of the most arduous challenges for Indigenous women entrepreneurs. The lack of access to networks and financial institutions, property for collateral and credit are all factors that we must overcome,” said Tabatha Bull, CCAB president and CEO. “We are thrilled that LNG Canada and Paper Excellence are taking meaningful action to support Indigenous women entrepreneurs and help grow the Indigenous economy.”

CCAB research has demonstrated that access to appropriate credit and lending is one of the main barriers for Indigenous businesses. The Indigenous Business Survey, Phase II: Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs, which was released in 2021 by CCAB, found close to half (47 per cent) of Indigenous women-owned businesses report no current lending relationships with any financial institutions, compared to almost one-third of male-owned businesses.

“LNG Canada is committed to supporting the advancement and empowerment of Indigenous women entrepreneurs. Indigenous women’s economic empowerment and inclusion is a direct response to the Calls for Justice,” said Hope Regimbald, LNG Canada’s Indigenous and stakeholder relations lead. “Access to capital and financing is critical, which is why opportunities provided through the Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship Fund are so important. We commend Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business for their efforts to enable Indigenous prosperity and remove systemic barriers facing Indigenous women.”

This is the third year the fund has been made available, and applications for the $2,000 grants will be open until May 19 at 5 p.m.

“Paper Excellence recognizes that a rising tide lifts all boats – that when Indigenous business does well, we all succeed doing business right means building business together,” said Lana Wilhelm, manager, indigenous and community relations. “We are pleased to be a part of empowering Indigenous women entrepreneurs to build their businesses. And we thank Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business for giving members like us this opportunity.”

Former recipients are saying that these grants have been transformative to their businesses and lives. More than 40 Indigenous women who own businesses have received grants to date.

“I am a proud member of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation with two children, and owning your own business isn’t always easy, but grants like this sure do help,” says Brandy Bulycz, the owner of Freedom Embroidery and an IWEF recipient last year. “With this grant, I was able to purchase stock, as well as do some promotion for my business. The help is appreciated more than you know.”

The entrepreneurship fund is administered through CCAB’s Tools and Financing for Aboriginal Business (TFAB) program to enhance Indigenous entrepreneurship by providing access to development and networks. A lottery system will be used to award grants. A live draw will be made at a future date at which time 20 recipients will receive grants.

CCAB is committed to the full participation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s economy. As a national, non-partisan association, its mission is to promote, strengthen and enhance a prosperous Indigenous economy through the fostering of business relationships, opportunities, and awareness.

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