Photo: Rob Chief, Sunshine Quem Tenasco, and Andrew Bomberry

Dear LiisBethians,

You might be surprised to know that entrepreneurship education and support doesn't just occur in government funded institutions, universities, or large formal organizations.

In fact, there are more grassroots programs, meet ups and bootcamp initiatives in Ontario than one can count -- all supporting aspiring entrepreneurs where they live. Many of these fly under the official eco-system radar, yet play an important feeder role. Many are volunteer based or funded by non-profits and charities, and are super appreciative of any help they can get.

For this reason, LiisBeth was also proud to, once again, volunteer and support Pow Wow Pitch, Canada's only indigenous entrepreneur pitch competition. It's held as part of a traditional, First Nations Pow Wow gathering in Ottawa and is now in its second year.

This year's outdoor event attracted more than 22 participants (18 women, 3 men) who competed on stage, in 32-degree weather, for $8500 in seed funding. The money was donated by the McConnell Foundation, Rise Asset Development Corporation,and former Dragon's Den celebrity, Brett Wilson

The lead organizer was Sunshine Quem Tenasco (Anishinaabe from Kitganzibi), a former Dragon's Den competitor, mother of four and founder of Her Braids. She developed this idea with support from Graeme Everton (Maori, New Zealand), and also her life partner and graphic design entrepreneur, Rob Chief (Anishinaabe from Timiskaming). While the Canadian indigenous entrepreneurial spirit is flourishing, the three realized that few participate in mainstream, urban startup ecosystems. 

The ventures represented on stage included everything from a new service to support gay aboriginal teens, expansion of a Pow Wow regalia pattern making enterprise, to an international trading network for first nations businesses.  While the top prize of $5,000 went to Michaelee Lazore of Sequoia Native Handmade Organics. Jamie Koebel of Indigenous Walks took second prize ($2,500), followed by Steph Anderson who represented Roberta Anderson, a well-known indigenous beadwork designer who sells her work to companies,($1000). Twindian Designs, a 100% Haudenosaunee women-owned fashion house, was a close runner up.

For pictures and videos of the event, visit the Pow Wow Pitch facebook page.  And watch for an indepth account of the event, and profiles of the winners from LiisBeth on June 28th. 

In LiisBeth Magazine This Week: Innovation Anyone?

In our latest original, we take a gender lens look at the new Government of Canada's Innovation Agenda and The Next 36, one of the most prestigious, well-resourced, young innovator talent-seeking incubators in the country.
Gender Watch!

On June 10th, Communitech announced both $880K in FedDev funding and Fierce Founders, a programme advertised as being "for women-led start ups." But we find the assertion a little misleading. To qualify, applicants only need one female co-founder or C-suit executive as part of their team (could be 1 out of 5 for example). And to keep things in perspective, C-Suit in a start-up can also mean website manager.

Curiously, the first and still current website for Fierce Founders programme articulates a much different agenda. Applicants had to be a female founder and have consent from the entire team (not sure either why they asked for consent).

Got to wonder what happened there. Plus, the application date for the Fierce Founders website closed before the June 10th announcement.
What happened? And why was the original focus on female-led founders watered down? In reality, this is now program for "Gender-Diverse" startup teams but not necessarily female-led teams.

Yes Virgil, there is a difference. And you had it right at the beginning. 

More Progess?

Meanwhile, just down the road, The Guelph's Regional Innovation Centre received $149,000 in funding from the Status of Women to support women entrepreneurs in their area. Their program targets existing women entrepreneurs, low-income women, women in career or life transition, and women in the STEM sectors and pursuing education in those fields.

Apparently, in Ontario, only women in crisis or those systemically oppressed (i.e. omen in STEM) can benefit from entrepreneur programs designed just for women.  

Today, the number of women-only incubators ,venture funds, and accelerator programs (MergeLane, She-EO, Prosper, WisSTEM), are mushrooming across North America with a new one opening roughly every five months. 

Why Women Only?

While we like to debate it on theoretical grounds, the fact is, traditional programs, for many reasons, are not a great fit for all female founders. 

Sometimes it’s essential for women to have access to their own separate path in order to unleash their full and authentic potential. 

We don't only have co-ed sports in the Olympics either. 
Finally, an interesting read: 

Misc Magazine’s Summer Issue: The Future According to Women.  The issue offers five “unexpected” themes as a result of speaking to 40 women.  Not mind blowing outcomes, but interesting to read.

That's it for Dispatch #9!  If you enjoyed it, have something to say, or better yet, got something out of it, please tell your friends and by all means share! #LIISBETH, #FEMINISTENTREPRENEUR, #GENDEREQUALITY. 

Would also L-O-V-E to hear from you!  We all need a little digital hug from time to time! Let us know you're out there!

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