A number of small business loans for women in Canada are available for female business owners who make up at least 50 percent of a company's ownership either individually or in conjunction with other women.
So, if you are a woman looking to start a business or expand an existing small business, loans and even some small business grants are available. Some programs are available only to residents of particular areas of Canada.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Women in Business Initiative focuses on improving the access to business financing for women and has partnered with Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) throughout the region. More than 40 CBDCs in the region and a multitude of urban lenders are part of the program.
Individual CBDCs offer loan programs from First-Time Entrepreneur Loans and Self-Employment Benefit Programs for people starting businesses through General Business Loans and Innovation Loans for people looking to expand or develop their businesses.
Located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Paro Centre for Women's Enterprise operates more than 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 start a business or find a job, Paro also operates "Gateway: A Path to Self-Employment." It offers business development programming to women in the Thunder Bay area who are unemployed and eligible for Employment Insurance (EI), have been eligible for 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.
Microlending for Women in Ontario is a government program that funds initiatives throughout the province to support low-income women seeking to start their own businesses.
Femmessor — Réussir en affaires offers between $5,000 and $35,000 in loans for a maximum of five years, depending on your region and the purpose of your project. Customized training, mentoring, coaching, and networking assistance also is available.
The nonprofit Women's Enterprise Initiative Loan Program (WEI) through Western Economic Diversification Canada (WEDC) has offices in each of the four western provinces and provides business information, advisory services, and training options. Their small business loans for women will provide debt financing of up to $150,000 for start-up, expansion, or the purchase of an existing business.
The following Women's Enterprise centers administer the program and provide a host of other services for female entrepreneurs:
- Women's Enterprise Centre of BC provides small business loans for women up to a maximum of $150,000. 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.
- Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) provides small business loans of up to $150,000 and will assign you a business adviser who will lead you through the preparation of a business plan and the loans process.
- Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan Inc. provides small business loans of up to $150,000. You must work with a business adviser prior to applying for a loan.
- Like the centers, the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba provides loans of up to $150,000. If you are applying for a loan of more than $150,000, you will need to submit a completed business plan with your loan application. A business analyst will work with you throughout the process.