by Stacy Dunn
Almost 50 women entrepreneurs applied to participate in Accelerate HER PEI, a 12-week pilot program led by the PEI Business Women’s Association (PEIBWA) and the Atlantic Canadian Women in Growth Partnership, in collaboration with Startup Zone. Nine participants were selected for the program, which started in January.
“It’s a diverse group of participants who have been in business for one to five years and are looking to grow their companies,” says Rose FitzPatrick, one of the Program Coordinators of the Program. “The cohort was selected from applications received from across PEI and includes rural women business-owners, as well as those in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and women with disabilities.
“The companies are at various stages of growth. Some are expanding products or services for export markets and some are looking to hire additional staff. We also have a couple of companies planning facility expansions.”
The program involves one-on-one mentorship support, along with weekly accelerator programming focused on goal setting, peer support, and guidance by the Accelerator Program Facilitator. Each week, expert advisors and community business leaders are brought in to speak to the group about issues they’ve identified as important to their business growth, such as financial and legal issues, sales and marketing, leadership, change management, and social media.
Shelley Jessop is the Manager of PEIBWA’s Rural Women’s Business Centre in Central Bedeque where the weekly workshops are broadcast. She and FitzPatrick developed the Accelerate HER PEI program, in collaboration with the Startup Zone. While the 12-week program is held virtually, the Centre has 1,200 ft of co-working space available to participants.
Dee Enright is the Program Facilitator for the pilot program and through her consulting company, JEBBCA Strategies & Holdings and her work as Business Development and Strategy Specialist at Startup Zone, she leads the group through weekly accelerator meetings. Dee is a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” specializing in marketing and communications. She is also mentoring one of the companies within the program.
“If my mentee has a challenge that I don’t know how to help with, I may know someone who does know how to help her. The opportunity to talk each week to a mentor is a unique and valuable addition to a regular business accelerator program.”
Project coordinators say that participants learn from their mentors’ experience in the challenges of growing a company, even if they don’t work in the same industry, they benefit from the mentors’ networks.
The Accelerate HER PEI pilot ends in April, with plans to run another cohort on PEI and expand the program through the Atlantic Canadian Women in Growth Partnership to the other Atlantic provinces.