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Canadian Credit Union Supporting Women Entrepreneurs Impacted by COVID-19

The following post is provided by Vancity, a values-based financial co-operative based in Vancouver, Canada. 

In partnership with Women’s Enterprise Centre, Vancity has launched the Unity Women Entrepreneurs Program to support women entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19.

The new full-service program offers loans to women who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic fall-out of the pandemic.

The Unity Women Entrepreneurs Program includes:

  • A loan of up to $150K with no payment required or interest charged during the first six months.
  • Professional business support and connections with a community of other women business owners throughout British Columbia.
  • Complimentary online education and resources on financial management, leadership, marketing and more.
  • Preferred entry into the Women’s Enterprise Centre Mentoring Program for six months of mentorship with an experienced entrepreneur (subject to availability).

The program is available to all women who have been in business for at least two years, including those who are not yet members of Vancity. It aims to better position these entrepreneurs to successfully weather the current storm, while counteracting the gender-regressive patterns of traditional lending.

Evidence shows that women and women-owned businesses are disproportionately affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19, with Statistics Canada showing that 73% of women-owned businesses are experiencing a high negative impact on the demand for products or services in their industry. Pressures of childcare and the fact that many women-owned businesses are more likely to be self-financed also contribute to increasing pressures on these entrepreneurs.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been monitoring the economic impact of COVID-19 and have listened to our members and community partners. As the economy reopens and the effects become clearer, we’ve identified a gap in support for women entrepreneurs. Due to this imbalanced impact, we have designed this program with gender inclusivity at the fore and we’ll continue to monitor the effects of the pandemic on others as restrictions ease,” said Vancity President and CEO Tamara Vrooman. “With invaluable support being offered from Women’s Enterprise Centre, we hope the program will provide the capacity-building required to support women in continuing to operate their businesses. Women make up about half of Canada's workforce, and an equitable economic recovery is impossible without women going back to work, and women-owned businesses are a huge part of this.”

“Women entrepreneurs approach financing differently. This partnership builds on the lending foundation of Vancity combined with the added support of mentoring, education and business advisory services offered by Women’s Enterprise Centre. This combination will help women entrepreneurs to traverse this challenging time," said Jill Earthy, interim CEO of Women's Enterprise Center.

Unity Loans are part of a suite of measures Vancity is taking to assist members and communities in uncertain times. Vancity has also reduced interest rates on credit cards to 0% for those impacted by COVID-19 and has a six-month loan deferral program in place. This deferral program includes mortgages and other loans, and will support members facing financial uncertainty and vulnerability from the fallout of Coronavirus. Vancity has temporarily waived some fees to help people access services remotely, including for INTERAC e-Transfer® and ATMs in Canada until September 30, 2020.