New business incubator for women makers and creators

DIVERSEcity, VCC and Canadian Western Bank partner to support women entrepreneurs build businesses and community

Women are still unequal when it comes to entrepreneurship in Canada. Women-owned businesses account for less than 16 per cent of all SMEs; they also face more challenges in launching, and their startups have a lower growth rate, according to Statistics Canada. Now think what it must be like as immigrant women who face additional barriers, from language challenges to acclimating to Canadian business norms.

A new business incubator by DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society in partnership with Vancouver Community College (VCC) and funded by Canadian Western Bank (CWB) has been launched to guide and support such intercultural women to turn their talents into entrepreneurship.

This innovative and extensive 20+ week business incubator will empower women makers and creators to use their creative skills for self-employment. From seamstresses, to artisans, to crafters, to photographers, participants of the free CWB Business Incubator for Women Makers and Creators will have the opportunity to:

  • Explore and develop business opportunities for their creative talents
  • Get one-to-one support from self-employment specialists
  • Learn business basics and operations at informative workshops
  • Test out products or ideas in the marketplace
  • Build a peer network with other women entrepreneurs
  • Receive ongoing support as they launch their business, either  independently or in a collective business model

One of the inspirations for this new program is the success story of Sewmates Craft, an immigrant women business collective. DIVERSEcity and VCC originally partnered up in October 2018 for a sewing business pilot program that helped launch Sewmates Craft, known lately for making cloth facemasks for some of the most vulnerable populations. (Read their inspiring story here.)

Sewmates Craft and another DIVERSEcity-and-VCC-launched immigrant women’s collective, Mama’s Hands, are both members of the Intercultural Women’s Maker Society. The goal is that individual or collective startups from this new CWB business incubator can then choose to join this society, too, and benefit from collaboration with other women-owned ventures.

“There is strength in numbers, especially for women entrepreneurs,” says Florence Kao, the self-employment specialist in charge of the entrepreneurship programs at DIVERSEcity. “Empowering immigrant women to become self-employed is a passion of mine. I know, as an immigrant woman from Taiwan myself, how overwhelming it can be to settle in a new country, so to start a business here on top of that is a daunting feat.

“We’re here to provide these talented women with the guidance, mentorship and business planning basics to succeed. One of the most important aspects of a business incubation program like this, however, is the peer networks and supports these women find with each other. They are building a community, along with their business.”

Florence, known to become a champion of her clients, supports them in any way she can throughout the business process from idea to launch. The energy she brings to the entrepreneurship programs at DIVERSEcity is the reason they won a CANIE Award (BC Region) from the Innovators and Entrepreneurs Foundation in spring 2020.

Another champion of entrepreneurs in Canada is Canadian Western Bank, which has come on board to fund the CWB Business Incubator for Women Makers and Creators. Thanks to this funding, the program is free of charge to participants.

CWB is focused on helping Canadian business owners grow and operate their business so they can achieve success. Through our community partnerships, CWB is committed to making meaningful impacts by working with organizations who are removing barriers so all Canadians can contribute to our country’s prosperity.

“That is why we jumped at the chance to support the Business Incubator for Women Makers and Creators,” says Jenny Siman, Vice President, Vancouver District, CWB. “It’s empowering women, who are facing additional barriers, to be entrepreneurial and take charge of how they want to participate in the workforce. At a time when we are feeling the differential impact that the pandemic has had on women’s participation in the workforce, we want to support efforts that give women a safe, inspiring community to gain independence through their business ventures.”

Learn more about the program at