Frequently asked questions: Women Entrepreneurship Fund


This call for proposals is closed - we are no longer accepting applications.

In total, more than 300 applications were approved for funding.

About Announced Additional Funding (June 2019)

With the additional $10 million available, will you open another round of applications for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund?

There is no need. The call for applications, held in fall 2018, received an overwhelming response, with over 3,000 applications. We were able to support over 200 projects at that time, and are pleased to be able to support approximately 100 more, which will be selected from among the eligible applicants from the Fall 2018 intake period. This will allow us to allocate funding quickly using high quality existing project applications.

Did you identify new criteria for this injection of funding?

All the new projects to be funded meet our initial assessment criteria. The selection process was thorough and fulfilled the goals of the program. We were able to identify additional projects to support from the existing pool of eligible applications.

Did you prioritize funding for Indigenous women in this new injection of funding for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund?

Indigenous women-led businesses have been a priority for the Women's Entrepreneurship Fund since the outset. In this new allocation of funding, $2.5 million has been earmarked for additional projects that were submitted by businesses led by Indigenous women.

How did you choose which projects would be selected for this new funding?

The Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) will examine the proposals received in fall 2018 that did not receive funding due to oversubscription. Among the many eligible applications received last fall, the RDAs will identify strong proposals that will be recommended for funding with this new allocation.

When will the new projects be announced? Should applicants contact the Regional Development Agency to find out if they will receive funding?

There is no need to contact departmental staff. Officials will contact successful applicants before the end of summer.

Should applicants who submitted an application in November 2018 revise or supplement their applications?

No, that's not necessary. Revised or supplementary applications are not being accepted. The November 2018 call for applications garnered over 3,000 applications. This round of funding will consider applicants from the fall 2018 call for applications, who submitted complete and otherwise eligible project proposals in November 2018. Incomplete applications from the November 2018 call for applications will not be considered

Are you accepting new applicants for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund at this time?

No. The government's investment of an additional $10 million to bolster the Fund will support approximately 100 more projects from among the impressive proposals received during the competitive process that took place in fall 2018. While the additional $10 million will allow us to fund more worthy projects, there were many more excellent proposals received.

Will there be a future intake for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund?

On June 5, 2019, we announced an additional $10 million to support about 100 deserving women-led businesses through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund. Details of future investments that support women entrepreneurs will be announced as they become available. We do not anticipate further intake for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund at this time.

Is this the only federal government program that supports women entrepreneurship?

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting women entrepreneurs by increasing their access to financing, talent, networks, and enterprise. The Women Entrepreneurship Fund is part of the $2 billion investment in programs and initiatives spanning a number of departments and federal partners under the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.

We encourage women entrepreneurs, or those considering entrepreneurship, to check out the website for a list of programs and services tailored to best fit their needs as a small business owner.

Was the funding for Women Entrepreneurship Fund sufficient?

It would be ideal to fund every worthy business that applied, to help women entrepreneurs to succeed. Nonetheless, we are pleased to support over 300 excellent projects that will have a positive impact on these women-led companies, and the overall Canadian economy. We originally could fund 216 projects, and this additional $10 million allows for approximately 100 additional projects to be funded.

About eligibility

Who is eligible to apply?

Eligible recipients must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • A for profit organization;
  • Women-owned and/or women-led business;
  • A small to medium enterprise (SME) (under 499 employees); and
  • A business in operation for a minimum of two years.

For further details please consult the Application guide.

Is the eligibility criterion of the two year minimum in business flexible?

No, this criterion is not flexible. In order to apply for funding, the business must have been established in Canada (generating revenues and/or expenses) for at least two years by November 15, 2018 (Closing date for applications). In addition:

  • Working on a project or an idea does not constitute being in business.
  • The business must be able to submit two full years of financial statements.
  • As long as the total years that a business has been continuously in operation exceeds two years, it is acceptable to combine the years operating as a sole proprietorship or a partnership and then incorporating the said business.
What does women-owned and/or women-led mean?

Women-owned: is defined as an enterprise where women own the majority of the company (more than 50%).

  • Ownership for two or more years

Women led: is defined as an enterprise with a woman/women, with long-term control and management of the business, who demonstrate an ownership stake in the company and an active role in both strategic and day to day decision making.

  • Long-term control and management of the business – have been engaged in the operation, management and ownership of the business for at least two years
  • Active role in strategic decision making – involved in elements related to the establishment of priorities, objective and goals for the business; overall operations of the business
  • Day to day decision making – involved in elements related to the financial management, human resources, supply management, logistics or customer services (for example)
  • Equity stake – demonstrates an ownership in the company
Can I still apply if I don't have the 10-20% cash contribution towards the project?

All applicants must meet the minimum cost-share ratio. Priority applicants must contribute 10% of the total eligible project costs and non-priority applicants must contribute 20%. All applications which do not meet the minimum cash contribution will be screened out.

How do I prove that I have the 10% or 20% leveraging amount and where do I add this information in the form?

By clicking on the "I Agree" button on the form, you are attesting to meeting the leveraging requirements. Please add your contribution in the Project Funding Sources table. This cash contribution cannot come from another government source, but has to come from the applicant as cash, financed funds, or from another private source. The cash contribution is not required up-front at the application stage and further documentation is not necessary.

My business has been operating for two years and I'm waiting for the second year financial statements from my accountant. Can I submit my application now and send in the second year financial statements later?

If the financial statement (audited, review engagement or notice to reader) for the second year is unavailable, an in-house financial statement for the second year is acceptable, but the financial statement (audited, review engagement or notice to reader) is required upon the signing of a contribution agreement.

My business has been operating for several years, which financial statements must I provide?

Please provide your most recent financial statements (audited, review engagement or notice to reader) which were completed by a recognized accountant. If your year-end is December 31, provide your financial statements of December 31, 2016 and 2017. If your financial statements provide two years of information, you can attach the latest statement incorporating both years.

Can I submit my income tax report(s) instead of the required financial statements?

No, the Federal/Provincial income tax report or any other documents related to income taxes are not accepted. The financial statement must include a balance sheet, income statement (Profit & Loss statement), statement of retained earnings and notes. Acceptable financial statement standards include: audited, review engagement, or notice to reader statements. These have to be prepared by a recognized accountant. Documents prepared by a bookkeeper are not accepted.

What is the definition of rural or remote area?

Rural: A population centre has a population of at least 1,000 and a population density of 400 persons or more per square kilometre, based on population counts from the current Census of Population. All areas outside population centres are classified as rural areas.

Remote: An eligible remote community is a community that meets the definition of a rural community and does not have year-round road access.

Who is not eligible to apply?

Non-profit organizations are not eligible to apply for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund, but may be eligible for funding under the WES Ecosystem Fund.

Is it a requirement for my business to be incorporated?

No, it is not a requirement; but the business must be a for-profit organization, such as: a sole proprietor; a partnership; a social enterprise; an incorporated cooperative or a corporation.

If I am a sole proprietor and I am not required to have a CRA business number, what do I input in the Business Number field?

Please enter "999999999" instead of the CRA business number on the application form.

What projects are eligible under the Women Entrepreneurship Fund?

Eligible project activities will support development and the execution of a growth strategy. To view the project eligibility criteria please consult the Application guide.

What are the eligible costs under the Women Entrepreneurship Fund?

Eligible costs are costs that are necessary to perform the work under the project which are directly related to achieving the objectives of the Fund. For a list of examples, please consult the Application guide.

Can I use this fund for a start-up or to buy an existing business?

Purchasing a business or starting up a new business is not and eligible expense under the Women Entrepreneurship Fund.

What costs are ineligible?

For a list of examples, please consult the Application guide.

Are consulting costs to prepare the application form eligible?

No, these costs are not eligible. Any costs incurred before an application is approved and a contribution agreement is signed are not eligible.

Are building acquisition costs eligible?

No, these costs are not eligible.

About the application process

I have encountered problems opening the application form. How can I access it?

The WES application form is in PDF format and will open automatically in Internet Explorer. However, if you use another browser or you have problems opening the form, do not attempt to open the form in your browser:

  • Right click on the link "WES Application Form (ZIP, 115 Kb)" found on the Application Process page;
  • Select "save target as" or "save link as" to download the document;
  • Extract and save the form on your computer; and
  • Open the form using Adobe PDF Reader.

Once the form is filled out, it must be electronically submitted by clicking on the "Submit" button at the bottom of the form.

I completed the application form. How can I submit my application?

Please click the "Submit" button at the bottom of the form and your application will be sent directly to the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy portal. You will receive an automated confirmation of application within two hours.

Why do I see questions in the form that are not explained in the Application Guide?

The application form is for two different initiatives (Women Entrepreneurship Fund and WES Ecosystem Fund). When filling out the form, be sure to first select which program you are applying for at the top of the form, as the questions on the form will change according to your selection.

How is the character limit calculated?

The character limit includes letters, numbers and spaces.

How do I fill out the "Total Project Costs by Cost Category" section?

The project costs should not be totalled into one line item. The project costs must be broken down by category with some detail in the description column to demonstrate what these costs are.

Is there a template for the financial forecast? What should I include in the financial forecast?

There is no template for the financial forecast. The applicant can provide the financial forecast in whichever format they choose. It should contain the projections of the company for the upcoming year and should include the proposed project.

What documents do I need to submit as part of my application?

The documents required to support your application are provided in a checklist within the Application guide. You may also attach any other documents you find relevant to your application.

Can I submit more than one application package?

Applicants may only submit one application package.

How long is the application process?

The application process will last 4 weeks and closes on November 15, 2018 at 23:59 PST.

What are your service standards?

Once you submit an application, our goal is to acknowledge the receipt of a completed and signed application package within 48 hours of receiving it (during working days). We will respond to general inquiries within 48 hours (during working days).

Can applicants select which official language they wish to submit their application in?

Yes. Applicants may submit their application documents in either English or French.

About the assessment process

When will decisions be made about the applications and how will applicants be notified?

Funding decisions are expected to be announced in Spring 2019. All applicants will be notified in writing if their application has been approved or rejected.

How were applications assessed?

An initial screening was conducted. Applications were all assessed on a competitive basis to ensure that they were complete and that they met the eligibility requirements. Given the high number of applications, incomplete applications, that is, those that did not follow the published application guidelines, or did not meet the eligibility requirements, were not advanced to the assessment stage. In addition, given the high number of applications, applications that did not respond to the three outlined priorities in the applicant guide were screened out. Applications responding to the three priorities were assessed against the assessment criteria published in the Application guide.

How many applications were funded?

In total, more than 200 applications were approved for funding out of the more than 3,000 applications that were received.

How many applications were received?

There was high interest in this program and more than 3,000 applications were received. As a result, the demand for funding exceeded available funds. There were many worthy projects that were submitted that cannot be funded due to limited funds.

How were the successful projects chosen?

The applications were screened and assessed on a competitive basis against the criteria outlined in the program Application guide. Projects that were aligned with the priorities and objectives of the program were funded until all funds were exhausted.

Why was my application deemed incomplete?

All applications underwent an initial screening to ensure they were complete and eligible under the program. For example, to have been considered a complete application, all of the required information must have been entered into every field in the form and all of the required attachments included, as outlined in the Women Entrepreneurship Fund Application guide. An application would have been considered incomplete, for example, if the business had not been in operation for at least two years or if the minimum applicant cash contribution was not listed in the application budget.

Why did the application portal allow me to submit my application if it wasn't complete?

For the application submission process, we used a portal and an application which would not allow applicants to submit an application that had empty fields or if they did not attach the correct number of attachments. It is only through the screening process that some applications were deemed to not contain correct information in the required fields or if the required attachments as outlined in the program Application guide were attached.

Why was my application deemed ineligible?

In order to be considered eligible, the application must have demonstrated that it met all the eligibility requirements as outlined in the Application guide. For example, the business had to have been in operation for at least two years, and the application had to include the required applicant cash contribution (10%-20% of eligible project costs).

Can someone explain to me why my application was unsuccessful?

Information about the assessment process, criteria, eligibility and completeness requirements, as well as the program objectives and priorities can all be found in the Application guide.

Can my application be reconsidered through an appeal process?

Funding decisions are final. There is no appeal mechanism.

Why was my application not assessed?

Applications that were screened out because they were incomplete or ineligible were not assessed further. Only eligible and complete projects that responded with at least one of the call for proposal priorities were considered and assessed.

Why was my in-house financial statement for 2017 not accepted?

Financial statements from the last two years were required to be submitted with the application in the required format (audited, review engagement, or notice to reader statements). For businesses who closed their financial year end at the time of the application deadline, an in-house financial statement for the second year was acceptable, provided the financial statement (audited, review engagement or notice to reader) is submitted upon the signing of a contribution agreement.

Applicants whose most recent financial year end was in 2017 had sufficient time to provide the financial statements in the correct format. Due to the competitive process, we are unable to make any exceptions to this requirement.

Can I get reimbursed for the application fees I paid to the company who filled out my application?

Any costs associated with submitting an application under the Women Entrepreneurship Fund are not reimbursable, as outlined in the Application guide.

Can the project start and end date be changed?

All applicants whose applications have been approved will have the opportunity to adjust the project start and end dates; however, projects cannot have an end date later than March 31, 2020.

Where can I find other funding opportunities that would support me and my business?

For more information on other government programs and services, please visit Innovation.Canada. This site provides general information on government services for entrepreneurs related to business start-up, financing, grants, taxes, importing, exporting, etc.
We encourage you to also visit the Canada Small Business Financing Program, a loan loss-sharing program between the federal government and private sector lenders that facilitates access to affordable asset-based financing to small and medium-sized businesses.

About funding

Can I start working on my project and incur expenses before hearing about the approval?

Any costs incurred before an application is approved and a contribution agreement is signed are not eligible.

Can I change the start date of my application if I put a start date before April 1, 2019?

All applicants whose applications have been approved will have the opportunity to adjust the project start and end dates.

What amount of funding can I request in my proposal?

The total amount requested may not exceed $100,000 per applicant.

How long a duration should my project be?

Funding will be provided for projects up to 12 months in length.

Why do you ask for six years of Project Funding Sources when the project is up to 12 months?

The application form is for two different initiatives (Women Entrepreneurship Fund (12 months) and WES Ecosystem Fund (5 years)). It is only necessary to provide the financial information for the project's twelve month duration.

How many applicants will receive funding?

The number of successful applicants will be determined by the availability of funding.

Are applicants required to allocate funds towards advisory services?

Advisory expenses are encouraged and could include:

  • Fees for business advisory services from a financial institution
  • Coaching, mentoring or networking events, workshops or conference fees
  • Legal/accounting/technical supports
  • Fees associated with participation in business training through an accelerator, incubator or other business service organization
Which applicants will be given funding priority?

Funding priority will be given to any of the following three applicant groups:

  • Diverse women entrepreneurs (such as women with disabilities, Indigenous women, women in rural or remote regions, recent immigrants, visible minority women, women from Official Language Minority Communities)
  • Businesses with products or services in one of the Economic Strategy Table sectors
  • Projects seeking to pursue market opportunities abroad
What is a cash contribution?

A cash contribution refers to money contributed to the project by the applicant. Priority Applicants are required to provide a 10% cash contribution, while non-priority applicants are expected to provide 20% towards the total project value. Additional points may be awarded to proposals which exceed the minimum requirements.

Do salaries count as cash contributions towards the applicant's other sources of funding/leveraging?

No, salaries do not count as cash contributions.

About reporting requirements

How will this initiative be monitored? What are the reporting requirements?

Financial reporting will be required with each request for reimbursement of expenditures, in addition to year-end accounting and other financial information as required. In addition, progress and performance reports outlined in the Contribution Agreement will also be required.