Susan Sullivan, minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, announces $320,000 in funding for a new Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs program at BrenKir Industrial Supply in Mount Pearl on Tuesday. — Photo by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram
The provincial government ann-ounced new funding Tuesday to help female-led companies get a bigger piece of new business, especially in growth industries.
Susan Sullivan, minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, announced $320,000 in funding for the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) for Business Connections, a program that will develop training material for women business owners in the province.
The organization’s executive director, Paula Sheppard, said women entrepreneurs are seeking help to grab a piece of developing oil and mining businesses, for example.
“A lot of women business owners were coming to us saying, ‘We know that these projects are going to need suppliers. We know that there’s going to be business out there. How do we get that business?’ There’s this unknown piece,” she said. “And so what we want to do is connect that unknown, find out what those questions are from those industries, and say, ‘Look, these are the things you need to have in place in order to supply to these industries.’”
Sheppard said NLOWE is not just training women, but also going to the companies to find out what their needs will be.
”We’re doing a lot of community outreach in terms of going to those companies and saying, ‘OK, in three years from now, five years from now, what are you going to be needing?’ Because not only do we do growth, we do startup, so as people are starting the businesses and then eventually growing the businesses, they want to know what opportunities are out there.”
The announcement was held at BrenKir Industrial Supply in Mount Pearl, owned by Anne Whelan, who spoke to the crowd of business owners and employees as well as government officials. Whelan said the province’s emphasis on diversity is important, and she noted BrenKir recently secured a Hebron contract.
“I would like to think that BrenKir is competitive, and we can do that without necessarily needing to raise that diversity flag, but let’s be honest. Part of how this works is networks and connections,” she said. “It’s not that it’s an insidious group or anything like that, but it is about the contacts you have and the trust that people can build that your business can deliver. So having groups like NLOWE help us work on how we present to those organizations, getting our certifications. Those sorts of things are really important.”
After the announcement Sullivan said that groups like NLOWE do necessary work in levelling the playing for women-led businesses in industries in which they’ve traditionally been underrepresented.
“There are a multitude of opportunities out there in terms of growth industries — oil and gas is one of the industries. Mining is another, aquaculture, and we can go on and list all of those particular projects that are really big and happening out there, Muskrat Falls and so on,” she said.
“There are also opportunities, though, both locally in terms of business opportunities to supply provincial governments, municipal governments, national governments and so on, but there are huge opportunities as well in export areas, so within the supply chains there are all these opportunties that we need to study. We need to help entrepreneurs, particularly women entrepreneurs, who’ve not always had the same access to these particular markets. We need to help them understand the markets and the opportunities a little better.”