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LIISBETH DISPATCH #54

Athelstan Spilhaus Comic Strip, Illustrator: Gene Fawcett

PK’S VIEWPOINT 

On a hot summer July evening, a few members of the LiisBeth team (Lana, Geraldine, Champagne) and I went to see a screening of The Experimental City, a 2017 documentary about the Minnesota Experimental City (MXC) project.

The MXC was a 1960s technology-led city-building project that sought to solve urban problems of the day (excessive waste, pollution, automobile congestion, lack of parks) by building a full-size Jetsons city on appropriated land from scratch, using the latest technology sourced from around the world.

Its lead visionary—engineer, futurist, comic strip author, and dean of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology Athelstan Spilhaus—imagined a city with underground garbage recycling, lots of open parks, wilderness and farms, automatic highways, moving sidewalks, and waterless toilets. Fuelled by enthusiasm for the possibilities, a cadre of like-minded engineers, designers including geodesic dome inventor Buckminster Fuller, a newspaper publisher, futurists, politicians, and corporate leaders all decided take the techtopian idea from comic to concrete.

Despite years and significant spending on designs, plans, and site scouting, in the end the project never put a single shovel—or tree—in the ground.

We were interested in learning about the MXC because we are in the midst of planning our September 29 Feminist City Walk and Talk, an event dedicated to examining feminist approaches to city building.

Turns out watching the film was time well spent on several levels. The MXC story is not only a cautionary tale about techtopian projects in general. It is also a story about the limitations of patriarchal leadership styles.

When Product Trumps Process

The MXC plan was envisioned as an innovation experiment. Its unproven ideas girded by emerging technologies required a 60,000-square-foot sandbox and 250,000 real people living its experience in order to try things out, iterate, and try again until market-ready scale-up versions could be implemented elsewhere—for a handsome sum.

MXC was, essentially, a minimum viable product. Its citizens (in this case) were early-stage adopters. The play? To create new jobs and wealth for Minnesota by selling the experiment’s spinoff products and intellectual property (IP) that would arise out of the project. Partners and advocates included federal and state governments, the University of Minnesota, and the 3M corporation. The project’s all-male leaders were able to raise $250,000 from the US federal government and $670,000 (equivalent to $8.4 million today) from businesses to invest in the project plan.

It all sounded exciting and promising. There was just one problem: where to put it.

Eventually the group found a site—an unincorporated township in rural Minnesota with fewer than 2,500 residents (back-to-landers and rural folk). The assumption was that these residents would be pushovers and would be thrilled to see 60,000 acres of their pristine natural environment turned into a city of the future for a quarter of a million dollars. The pitch? Think of the jobs! Think of the economic development! Think of what we could learn! Think of the economic potential! Think of the profits!

By now, this top-down sell story should start to sound familiar, especially if you have been following Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs‘ (this time the study cost $50 million) city-building project spearheaded by Alphabet (Google’s parent company).

As you know, Minnesota’s Experimental City was never built. They didn’t even get close. Why? As the documentary so clearly points out, its leaders and advocates prioritized product over process. They assumed a “trust us, we got this” and “father knows best” stance that was off-putting. Most importantly, they overlooked Mary Parker Follet’s 1920s feminist management wisdom by adopting a “power over” (exert authority) approach versus “power to” (develop agency and capacity to act in others) combined with “power with” (acting as expert heroes instead of initiators and sustainers of a collective process).

They also forgot Margaret Mead’s timeless lesson: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” This applies not just to those with power and influence, but also to those with little else but just cause, a point of view, and determination.

And what if, as feminist management scholar CV Harquail suggests, we shifted the eye of these stormy projects from a focus on economic development to a focus on citizen care?

Today, 80 percent of North Americans and 55 percent of humanity worldwide live in cities. We need to embrace both product and process innovations to make cities livable, sustainable, and safe. However, a patriarchal, top-down, corporate sales–oriented process that puts technology and corporate interests first is unlikely to succeed.

Projects like these, which involve a complex and large set of inter-independent stakeholders, require a deep understanding of the role of power, agency, co-creation processes, and fair and equitable distribution of benefits. These are all things feminist leaders know a thing or two about.

Lana, Geraldine, Champagne and I stayed for the panel session that followed which featured accomplished tech entrepreneur and out spoken Sidewalk Labs critic Saadia Muzaffar, and Sidewalk Labs supporter, Ken Greenberg, the former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the City Toronto, author of Toronto Reborn, and adviser to Sidewalk Labs Toronto.

Trying to keep an open mind, and putting aside the fireworks examples of mansplaining that occurred, the panel discussion only served to confirm our views.

Patriarchal leadership styles which, by the way, know no gender, is like kryptonite when it comes to complex, multi-stakeholder projects. Next time, we say we go lighter on the techno-determinists and engineers, and a little heavier on the feminist management scholars and leaders who are superstars at process.

WHAATT? TORONTO’S FIRST-EVER FEMINIST CITY WALK & TALK?! HOLD THE DATE!

Feminism has shifted mindsets about gender roles and made us more aware of the role that power and force of systems play in shaping our lives. But what role has feminism and feminists played in shaping our cities? Would would a feminist city look like? How would decisions and policies be made if feminist values and practices were incorporated? What would the Scotiabank Arena look like if it were designed by a feminist architect?

These are just some of the themes that will be explored during the Feminist City Walk & Talk coming up in Toronto on September 29 from 2:00PM to 5:30PM. Join Denise Pinto, expert guests, LiisBeth, and Jane’s Walk TO for this unique walk and talk on current feminist issues, city building, and alternative futures while exploring and learning about key sites where feminist history was made in Toronto.

THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH 

Meet Victoria Claflin Woodhull, ca. 1866-1873, who was a feminist, serial entrepreneur, and US presidential candidate.

FIRST WOMAN TO RUN FOR PREZ

Was Hillary Clinton the first woman in the US to run for president? Nope.

That title belongs to badass suffragette leader Victoria Claflin Woodhull Martin (1838-1927).  Woodhull was a serial entrepreneur, newspaper editor, Wall Street stock trader, public speaker, women’s rights reformer, and fortune teller. She had three husbands, two children (one of whom was disabled), and her feminism advocated for free love and socialism.

What can feminist entrepreneurs and aspiring women-identified politicians learn from Woodhull? Turns out, a lot. 

This month on LiisBeth, check out new contributor Stephanie Newman’s truly fascinating piece on Woodhull from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

RISKY BUSINESS

Pramilla Ramdahani, Founder and CEO of Community Innovation Lab

Most startups don’t start off as high-growth enterprises. Growth is one goal, sure, but all businesses start from the bottom up. But bottom is a relative term. For abuse survivors and marginalized women, starting a business could mean working from a place of residual mental and physical effects of trauma, fear of publicity, possible ongoing threats, and little financial backing. But survivors also possess the much-needed entrepreneurial attributes of resiliencestrength, and perseverance.

By 2020, 1,335 women, youth, senior entrepreneurs, and social entrepreneurs will have benefitted from initiatives at the Community Innovation Lab (Co-iLab).

What’s the Co-iLab difference? Participants are involved in the programming and design of the space. #cocreation

Michelle Davies spoke to Co-iLab’s founder Pramilla Ramdahani and reveals how Co-iLab is much more than an all-female accelerator. To get involved, or see if you’re a fit for The Refinery entrepreneurial program, check out the full story here.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT FEMINISM AND BUSINESS BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK 

CV Harquail’s new book, Feminism: A Key Idea for Business and Society, will get you to think differently about feminism’s relevance in business. But don’t just take our word for it—check out this review by Deloitte Professor in the Management of Growth Enterprises Dr. Barbara Orser. Orser has published over 100 academic and trade journals and knows the feminist entrepreneur space like a lioness knows the realities of the Savannah. She agrees it’s about time we have a book that succinctly explains why enterprises should be turning to feminist values and wisdom to transform business.

Read Orser’s review of the book here.

FEMINIST FREEBIE! 

Be the first to comment (substantively) on Orser’s review of Feminism: A Key Idea for Business and Society and receive a gratitude copy.

NEW SUPPORTS FOR WOMEN-LED SOCIAL ENTERPRISES IN ONTARIO 

Good news for women social entrepreneurs in Ontario! A new, unique program that will help diverse women-led social enterprises grow is set to launch in 2020. Read about the $3.6 million Canadian federal government announcement here.

The program endeavours to integrate Indigenous wisdom in its curriculum and approach. This is a first.

LIISBETH FIELD NOTES

MEET LIISBETH’S TWO INCREDIBLE NEW ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS:
GERALDINE CAHILL & ANITA LI

Geraldine Cahill, LiisBeth Advisory Board Member 2019

We are delighted that Geraldine Cahill has joined the Liisbeth Advisory Board! Cahill is the Director of UpSocial Canada, a social innovation agency first launched in Barcelona in 2010. She is also the co-author of Social Innovation Generation: Fostering a Canadian Ecosystem for Systems Change and chair of the Jane’s Walk Steering Committee, an annual global festival celebrating local knowledge and community connection.

Born in Australia, Cahill completed a BA in Media Studies at RMIT University and a BA in Film and Television from the Victorian College of the Arts. Her first media love was radio; she produced current affairs and women’s sports programs over several years at 3CR before moving to Canada and supporting the launch of a non-profit online news site, The Real News Network.

We are also thrilled to announce that Anita Li, consultant and former director of communities at The Discourse, has also joined our Advisory Board!

Anita Li, LiisBeth Advisory Board Member 2019

Li is also editor-in-chief of The Other Wave, a website dedicated to covering media from a multicultural perspective. Prior to that, Li served as senior editor at Fusion and as news director at Complex. She’s also held reporting and editing positions at media outlets across North America, including Mashable, Toronto StarThe Globe and Mail, CBC, and CTV.

OUR AUGUST PLAYLIST: BOLD, BRAVE, UNAPOLOGETIC

Looking to discover feminist-leaning, female, trans, or queer-led bands? Not easy right? Turns out we see very little diversity represented on stages at live music venues. With initiatives like Gender Parity on Stage by Canadian Women Working in Music calling for music bookers to book 50 percent women-fronted bands, things may start to change for all women-identified genders that are under-represented on stage.

To help spotlight feminist bands, LiisBeth publishes playlists featuring tightly curated women-identified-led bands and singer/songwriters and songs that are blatantly about love, justice, and power.

Our latest August 2019 playlist serves up 10 songs by artists featured at this year’s Venus Fest, a feminist music festival created by Aerin Fogel that’s designed to showcase women-led, queer, and trans bands in Toronto.

FEMINIST FREEBIE!

Get your groove on and tell us what you think by commenting on the playlist here. First two people to leave a reply win two passes ($110 value) to Venus Fest in Toronto this September. #hellavalue

Photo Credit: Katherine Fung/The World

What is the definition of an enterprise?

According to the dictionary:
1. A project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky
2. Unit of economic organization or activity especially: a business organization
3. A systematic purposeful activity, i.e. digital media production is the main economic enterprise for visual artists
4. Or readiness to engage in daring or difficult action; showing initiative; being enterprising

What is a feminist enterprise?

All of the above along with express operational focus or mission related to social and gender justice.

So what is the feminist enterprise commons (FEC)?

A new online community where feminist entrepreneurs and changemakers who are building organizations, enterprises, or working on projects from around the globe can meet, share stories, tools, learnings, stress test new ideas, practices, source goods and services from each other, and above all, feel supported.

Why are we building it?

Elize Shirdel, feminist tech entrepreneur and long-time LiisBeth supporter, explains: “Feminism’s deep body of academic and grassroots work related to change-making and practice is an under-explored source of innovative ideas for founders and business leaders looking to truly advance social and gender justice. It’s great to finally have a place dedicated to exploring feminism in business plus learning about and sharing our experiences.”

The FEC will be a service provided to the LiisBeth community on a paid subscription basis. Stay tuned for more information in the next few weeks.

FEMINIST FREEBIE!

If you are on our list as a $10 monthly paying subscriber to LiisBeth by September 2019, you will be invited to receive a complimentary first three months!

Champagne Thomson (bottom left) and crew outside the public library in Peterborough, Ont., are bringing attention to the need for a new homeless shelter in their city.

IS HOMELESSNESS A FEMINIST ISSUE?

We think so. And it is not just a big-city issue either.

In a community of 78,777 where the housing vacancy rate is less than one percent, the rural city of Peterborough, Ont., struggles with establishing and funding shelters for those in need. Due to funding and location issues, the city recently closed its only barrier-free shelter on July 1, 2019. A temporary tent city was created to deal with the immediate need: a stop gap measure that is not ideal.

Few realize that women make up 50.1 percent of the under 16 homeless population in Canada, and 27.3 percent of the homeless population in Canada overall). These figures do not include women and women-identified people who experience temporary homelessness as a result of domestic violence.

Any entrepreneurial solutions to funding safe, barrier-free physical shelters out there? Let us know (email publisher@liisbeth.com). We would love to hear and write about them.

LIISBETH MAKES FEEDSPOT’S TOP 10 FEMINIST MAGAZINE LIST 

Play the video below to hear the sound of LiisBeth tooting our horn because we were voted as one of the Top 10 Feminist Magazines, Publications & Ezines To Follow In 2019 by Feedspot, an online RSS feed reader.

The Best Feminist Magazines are chosen from thousands of feminist magazines on the web using search and social metrics. Readers subscribe to these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower themselves with frequent updates and high-quality information. Data will be refreshed once a week.

It takes a village.
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WHAT WE’RE READING 

“Rising high up on the heather-covered moorlands, seeping through our bogs, flowing down our streams and into our rivers and out onto the sandy strands of the rock-strewn Atlantic seaboard, are the old Celtic myths and stories…waiting to be reclaimed and re-visioned for the modern world.”

Aged 30, Sharon Blackie found herself weeping in the car park of the multinational corporation where she worked, wondering if this was what a nervous breakdown felt like. Somewhere along the line, she realized, she had lost herself—and so began her long journey back to authenticity, rootedness in place and belonging.

In this extraordinary book of myth, memoir, and modern-day mentors (from fashion designers to lawyers), Blackie faces the wasteland of Western culture, the repression of women, and the devastation of our planet. She boldly names the challenge: to reimagine women’s place in the world, and to rise up, firmly rooted in our own native landscapes and the powerful Celtic stories and wisdom which sprang from them.

“A haunting heroine’s journey for every woman who finds inspiration and solace in the natural world.” —Goodreads.com

“I love this book. Truly, it’s mind-blowing in the most profound and exhilarating sense. This is an anthem for all we could be, an essential book for this, the most critical of recent times. I sincerely hope every woman who can read is given one, and has the time and the space to read it.” –Manda Scott, author of Boudica and Into the Fire

Forbidden Fruit: Engaging an Indigenous Feminist Lens as an Neninaw Iskwew is a feminist-based memoir acknowledging that people are measured, categorized, and placed in a hierarchal order that is deeply influenced by discourses predicated upon social processes.

“Dr. McKay’s Indigenous feminism is about being aware that due to the colonial patriarchy that has seeped through Indigenous social and cultural systems, Indigenous women are positioned differently in economic, social, and political structures. Marlene masterfully uses her own life experiences to assert that colonialism and Indigenous cultures obscure the role of women in a way that continues both their marginalization and the binary of the princess/squaw.” —J Charlton Publishing

Marlene E. Mckay entered the teaching profession after working as a social worker/counsellor for about 15 years. She has four earned university degrees. Marlene’s education focuses on Indigenous feminism, social justice, anti-racist education, and as a Cree speaker herself, she has a deep commitment to Indigenous literacy. Her research is motivated by observing and experiencing marginalization. Dr. McKay asserts that subjugation is influenced by identity categories of race, class status, and gender. She further argues that one’s speech is used to categorize people. Dr. McKay has taught at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta.

AND FINALLY . . . IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!

  • Not all equal voice call-outs are created equal. This National Observer piece highlights the stories of three women who were fired after raising concerns about racism in the women advocacy organization.
  • Social procurement strategies can build inclusive local economies. Thinking about creating one? Check out this useful article here (written by PK Mutch and published in Local Love).
  • Entrepreneurs can’t do it all. And we don’t do it alone. Incubators and accelerators are places where business startups meet, network, find funding opportunities and mentors, and more. Here are Startup Funding’s list of Top 31 Accelerators for women located in the US and abroad.
  • Here is an opportunity for #womenintech in Toronto that we wanted to share. Toronto Tech Study aims to get a clear-headed read on the state of sexual harassment in the sector. Yes, it still happens. But how pervasive is it? You have to see the gap before you can figure out how to move past it. The Aperta Project is intended to help Toronto build a more inclusive tech sector in the #MeToo era. Do you have a story about sexual harassment in Toronto tech? Share your experience anonymously to this project and learn more here.
  • Alberta hair salons are levelling the playing field by charging the same price for haircuts no matter the client’s gender. Check out this article that includes a seven-minute interview with Jennifer Storey, the owner of Adara Hair in Edmonton, who explains why her salon decided to become the first place in Edmonton to advertise gender-neutral pricing.
  • Listen to an episode of LiisBeth’s favourite podcast, On Beinghere. In this episode, host Krista Tippett chats with philosopher Jonathan Rowson, co-founder of the research platform Perspectiva, who believes the world’s major challenges stem from a crisis of perception and imagination. The episode focuses on the connection between our inner and outer worlds and how social change happens across “systems, souls, and society.”

That’s it for our August newsletter! Hate to drop the F-bomb, but fall will soon be here.

We will be back September 23 with more profiles and stories that may bring you joy or make you want to kick the ground!

If you do not currently support LiisBeth, we hope you will consider doing so. There are less than four feminist publications in Canada. We are the ONLY intersectional feminist publication in the world dedicated entirely to examining entrepreneurship and innovation via a feminist lens. We are one of only a few sources of income for feminist writers, academics, and grassroots thought leaders.

Also, remember, if you have a story tip, email us a publisher@liisbeth.com. We are currently accepting queries for December.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer (or winter depending on where you live).

Blue skies either way,

Categories
Activism & Action Our Voices

Risky Business? Maybe Not

 

 

 

Pramilla Ramdahani, CEO and founder, Community Innovation Lab

“You are risk takers, don’t listen to that stuff. You are risk takers because, quite frankly, you raise families, you have children, you move countries, you move cities, you have had enormous risk in your life!”

That message from Women on the Move’s CEO Heather Gamble—to ignore such axioms as “women can’t succeed in business because they don’t take risks”—had particular resonance for this audience of women business founders, some of whom had endured extreme risk, such as immigrating to Canada, heading single households, and surviving intimate partner violence. And the point was particularly impactful coming from an entrepreneur who reached $1 million in revenue just 18 months after launching her first startup.

As a revenue accelerator devoted to helping other women entrepreneurs reach the million-dollar milestone, Gamble is also a faculty mentor of The Refinery, a unique business growth program designed by women for women out of the Community Innovation Lab (iLab), a hub for entrepreneurs based one hour east of Toronto in Oshawa, Ont., where it serves the Durham Region.

Pramilla Ramdahani started the non-profit iLab as a way to tackle community social issues through an innovative lens in an ethnically diverse region with pockets hard-hit by job losses. Ramdahani, who has an MBA in community economic development and studied social entrepreneurship at Stanford University, left her own successful enterprise and bootstrapped iLab for three years before landing any kind of substantial funding. Talk about taking a risk. Eventually, the Ontario Trillium Foundation funded iLab’s most in-demand seminar, which morphed into The Refinery and will support 1,335 women through 2020.

Ramdahani says she started The Refinery after noticing two needs in the region: entrepreneurial training for women and assistance for marginalized women. After seeking feedback from the community through roundtable events, Ramdahani realized that women wanted a founder’s program created and staffed by women, to serve women. Women said they felt safer in smaller rooms with doors rather than one large open hall. They also said they have different and more open conversations when the instructors are female. Plus, they like to support each other. According to Brenna Ireland, director of operations for iLab, the women wanted a program to strengthen “business and personal ties to better the community, not just compete against each other.”

So, no, a traditional male-led accelerator would not do.

Yet, The Refinery is more than an all-female accelerator

At the earliest stages, LiisBeth founder Petra Kassun-Mutch designed a curriculum for women-only programs that helped infuse feminist entrepreneurial values throughout iLab’s work—business counselling and training, building opportunities and networks, mentoring, and widening access to capital. (Researchers Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliott define feminist entrepreneurship as “a mechanism to create economic self-sufficiency and equity-based outcomes for women, girls, and other gender-oppressed communities.”) All entrepreneurs at iLab are coached with the end goal of achieving autonomy, and by extension, strengthening their community with hiring and spin-off economic activity from new ventures.

Refinery Incubator participants in session

The Refinery includes a three-day boot camp, a year of intensive training delivered online and at the iLab centre, optional seminars on such topics as social media marketing, and opportunities to receive year-long mentoring from an established entrepreneur. Women learn how to access capital, build strong teams, scale processes, and generate sales.

The Refinery supports entrepreneurs working in a variety of sectors including business services, media, wellness and coaching, automotive sector, food, gift products, and human resources (note it’s not just tech). Women are guided to discover their own strengths and ideas, rather than the staff deciding which businesses would be best for them. According to Ramdahani, The Refinery is about “integrating empathy, social justice, and user-led techniques.”

The women-centric support and camaraderie is particularly important for abuse survivors, who face additional challenges when starting a business. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in the U.S., survivors may have endured years of economic abuse, including tactics that damage their credit, deplete their resources, and prevent them from completing education and training. They may face ongoing threats of violence even after leaving an abuser, as well as legal issues and long-term mental and physical effects of trauma. Survivors may also have spotty employment records. Child care is often difficult to arrange after years of social isolation. And while all entrepreneurs may struggle with confidence, survivors must overcome low self-esteem brought on by years of abuse. They may also fear publicity or the idea of bringing their business online given that abusers often continue stalking and harassing their victims, in person and online. To top it off, survivors likely live under the poverty line and struggle to pay for food, shelter, utilities, and transportation expenses, leaving little to bootstrap a new business.

But the same policy research group also notes that survivors have strengths and resilience that may serve them well in entrepreneurship. The reality of managing a relationship with an abusive partner may require the same skills exhibited by the most successful CEOs: calculated risk-taking, thoughtful action, tough-mindedness, the ability to read people, problem solving, and determination.

In Oshawa, where iLab is based, domestic violence calls to police increased by 15 percent between 2013 and 2017, but the actual rate is much higher, as 70 percent of spousal violence is not reported to the police, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

One survivor in The Refinery program (she asked to remain anonymous), who started a new business service while caring for elderly relatives, says she still suffers side effects from an earlier abusive relationship and has been grappling with relocation. She received much-needed sales, marketing, and financial training from The Refinery, but it was the all-female setting that was most critical. “It provides a safe spot,” she said. “Because after you’ve been victimized, you’re vulnerable and your confidence is shot. And so, any time a man is in the room, it’s a different dynamic than when you’re surrounded by women.”

She recommends The Refinery to “anybody that is looking to flesh out their business, anybody looking to ramp up their business, and who needs to build up a network of people. It certainly gives you all the supports that you need.”

The Refinery and iLab strive to create a safe space for all by requiring instructors to undergo police checks, as well as privacy and sensitivity training. The board of directors and staff strive to be as diverse as those they serve.

And here’s another appealing aspect for marginalized women: thanks to funding from Trillium, all fees are waived. Even optional seminars can be subsidized for those who need financial assistance. To help fund their startups, iLab partnered with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to widen the eligibility criteria for funding to help women entrepreneurs. Ramdahani also hopes to start a micro-lending circle at iLab to help women who don’t qualify for funding through banks, the BDC partnership, venture capitalists, or angel funding.

A safe space for women nurtures growth for all

Based on the success of The Refinery, iLab looked at other gaps in community services and launched entrepreneurial programming for additional under-represented groups. ILab started incubators for at-risk youth entrepreneurs called NEET (not in education, employment or training), Spice (seniorpreneurs who are 55 and up), and the Social Enterprises Accelerator that helps social entrepreneurs grow to the next level. Said Ramdahani, “If you cannot find employment, why not create your own business? That’s the pathway we see that participants can use to alleviate poverty.”

 

CiLab Women Finance Day

ILab also offers co-working spaces and rooms to rent for events and meetings—at a fraction of typical costs. Staff are quick to answer questions and find extra resources to accommodate attendees’ personal circumstances. And in order to create a community for entrepreneurs to grow and apply what they’ve learned, alumni from all streams are invited to join a Facebook group once they complete a program.

Elsii Faria, of The Hive Centre Bee and Bee, entered iLab’s social entrepreneur program to get much-needed support in a variety of areas. The business she runs with her husband offers overnight accommodation via a retreat centre that hosts nature, creativity, wellness, and spiritual events, as well as marketing and web design, and a platform called 1Community1 focused on community engagement. While building the business, Faria faced a life-threatening illness, took on a new mortgage for the bed and breakfast and office space, as well as cared for her one-year-old child. Faria says connecting with other social entrepreneurs at iLab gave her “really valuable support from other businesses with similar objectives.” It also introduced her to key partners such as Bear Standing Tall, their first Indigenous retreat leader. She had an arts education but needed to build up business skills. ILab helped her improve her sales skills and understand their business model. The business recently landed a grant that allows them to partner with Durham College to continue developing their 1Community1 platform.

Yet, for all of iLab’s success helping others, it has yet to receive solid funding support from any level of government—municipal, provincial or federal. Ramdahani is frustrated that governments favour investing in tech-based entrepreneurs and large urban-based non-profits. She is pleased that the Ontario Inclusive Innovation Action Strategy, released in June 2019, expands the government’s innovation definition to include “processes that are not tech-based.” But she points out that the strategy will only support women entrepreneurs at the high-growth stage only. “There is no funding for women who are marginalized, and who have just started a business, or have been in business for under three years,” Ramdahani said. Early-stage women founders often find doors for traditional loans closed. Without investment and cash flow to conduct business, Ramdahani wonders, How can they grow?

What funding is available for women entrepreneurs?

The federal government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) has added millions to support women, including new funding for enterprises in the high-growth stage, organizations that help grow women’s businesses, and research hubs. Currently, there is a federally funded women’s business development centre in every province and territory except the Northwest Territories. Provincially, the non-profit Paro Centre for Women’s Enterprise supports women-owned businesses and community economic development in northern, eastern, and central Ontario, excluding the Greater Toronto Area, through federal and Ontario Trillium Foundation funding.

In the U.S., the Small Business Administration (SBA) partners with non-profit organizations to fund and oversee 113 Women’s Business Centres. The centres offer entrepreneurs and small business owners free counselling and free-to-low-cost training. Men can receive services through these centres as well.

American women entrepreneurs are encouraged to register with the SBA for a Women-Owned Small Business or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business Certificate. This qualifies them to bid on contracts with the federal government to supply products and services. During 2017, $20.8 billion in contracts were won by women-owned small businesses. The U.S. federal government strives to award five percent of their supplier contracts to women-owned small businesses.

Like iLab’s innovative programming, these are ideas we can build on. ILab involves participants in curriculum and space design, “rather than building something and inviting them,” said Ramdahani.

Something for funders to chew on.


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This article was generously sponsored by Startup Here Toronto.


 

Related Stories

https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/06/25/gaslighting-the-silent-killer-of-womens-startups/

https://www.liisbeth.com/2018/08/07/start-up-incubators-are-failing-women-entrepreneurs-so-lets-fix-it/

 

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LIISBETH DISPATCH #45

VIEWPOINT

Mountains of private sector led studies and a handful of task forces over the past ten years on how to unleash the power of women entrepreneurs…and we are no further ahead. In fact, the 2017 McKinsey study on gender parity in Canada identified that Canada had “extremely high inequality in five out of fiftteen indicators.”  One of those was women’s entrepreneurship. According to the study, it will take us 180 years to reach parity in terms of creating an environment where women entrepreneurs can thrive as well—or as easily—as their male counterparts.

One of the reasons for this disappointing rate of progress, in my opinion, is the fact that we have allowed a handful of powerful, privileged people, girl-boss celebrities and Bro’ tech voices to have an outsized impact on how we view women’s entrepreneurship. The learning here is: women entrepreneurs are not mini-men entrepreneurs. A woman’s lived experience in a kyriarchal world is entirely different than a man’s and thus, not surprisingly, so is their approach to venture design and growth. Instead of developing programs and policies designed to homogenize and encourage women entrepreneurs to learn how to proceed like unencumbered, entitled tech-dudes, it’s time to recognize, celebrate, and amplify our uniqueness.

And here’s the good news. This might finally happen.

This summer, the Canadian government launched a competitive bid process to establish an independent Womens Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub fuelled by a hefty $8.62 million dollar budget over three years. The application must be be consortium based and led by an academic institution. The goal? Take off the Tom Ford aviators and see things as they really are. 

Grant opportunities like this don’t happen often so it’s no surprise that the competition is fierce. The assessment criteria includes points for things like research credentials, large project management skills, plans for long term financial sustainability, and the ability to leverage technology. Applicants must also demonstrate some level of prior engagement and knowledge of women’s entrepreneurship in Canada, the ecosystem that supports women entrepreneurs, plus experience working with diverse, intersectional groups of women.

All useful criteria on which to base a decision.

But…let’s face it. If we truly want to see different results from the past, it’s the leadership style of the lead applicant team that matters most.

When it comes to awarding big government contracts, we tend to go for thigh thundering T-Rex’s bearing gifts. The bigger and louder the better. We think someone famous, aggressive, with corporate connections who is chummy with the 1% will help get things done.

But if we want a different result, we need a different approach. Like Dandelion leadership.

In feminist and activist literature, the natural characteristics of the lowly dandelion is often referred to as a metaphor for the type leadership needed to advance social equity in any space, including entrepreneurship. Dandelion leaders recognize that innovation and leadership can come from anywhere, not just the tip of the economic iceberg. Dandelions are democratic, humble, agile, and responsive to their environment. They don’t care where they grow. They are everywhere. Farmer’s fields, a gated community lawn, or between cracks in sidewalks. They deeply understand the concept of inter-independence because without it, they die. They help nourish and ripen challenging ideas. They detoxify. They encourage others around them to flourish as opposed to expanding their own empires. And at the same time, they are not afraid of revolution. Imagine a field overrun with dandelions!

Imagine an economy fuelled by feminism. 

Canada has lagged in its ability to productively support women entrepreneurs because this diverse and heterogenous community is still greatly misunderstood and misrepresented. Moving forward, one way to avoid this is to ensure research and collaborations engage grass roots organizations, feminist leaders, and the kaleidoscope of main street female entrepreneurs in purposeful ways. No more tokenism.

This will take a leadership team that knows about creating safe environments. People who can harvest and include learnings from the fringe. An open minded team who is understands collective impact theory. Someone willing to challenge the current dysfunctional sacred cows of entrepreneurship and innovation—perhaps throwing them out all together.

The decision regarding who gets to lead the hub will be announced in October. I can’t wait. 

And I, for one, will be rooting for the dandelion team who is able to take root in depleted spaces and encourage generative growth.


LiisBeth Founder & Publisher

THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH 

What We Are Talking About When We Talk About White Privilege: Themes From the White Privilege Conference in Toronto

What happens when you think of white privilege? Maybe it makes you angry. Perhaps it’s a subject you avoid. Possibly you become itchy and uncomfortable because if you are white (and privileged) you feel like you are to blame. If you are a member of a minority facing struggles because of race, how do you get someone to understand your barriers, challenges, and point of view?

White Privilege Conference has become synonymous with tackling widespread issues of inequality and 2018 marked the first time WPC has crossed the border for a Canadian version of the conference.

Dr. Golnaz Golnaraghi’s story is a moving and inspiring account of her time at the White Privilege Conference, and includes practical ways we can move towards solutions and change. Read it here.

The four Atlanta social ventures awarded a total of $200,000 by the Sara Blakely Foundation and Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI) through the Civic Impact Loan Fund.

Change Makers: A unique residency supports women entrepreneurs on the front line of social innovation

Welcome to Atlanta, the city with the highest rate of income inequality in the US. Now, thanks to the vision of Rohit Malhotra who worked on civic innovation initiatives in the Obama administration and Sara BlakelyAtlanta’s most influential female entrepreneur and Spanx CEO and founder, The Centre for Civic Innovation is fostering startups who are addressing the root cause of why this inequality exists. From yoga practice for police officers to Civic Dinners bringing community members together, the centre provides financial and development support to entrepreneurs.

Adina Solomon explains how the one-year residency is measured by how much the entrepreneurs achieve – not by financial indicators. Check out the article here.

Above: Lido Pimienta, Venus Fest 2017

New LiisBeth Playlist! Time to Soar

September is here. Time to get back to initiatives, routines, and commitments sometimes left to languish as we frenetically try to enjoy our short summers.

To get back into the swing of things, Aerin Fogel, founder of Venus Fest, created a new playlist for LiisBeth to help get us back into gear! Have a listen here.

The playlist features ten artists performing at this year’s Venus Fest, a Toronto music festival and concert series celebrating feminism in the arts. It happens Thursday to Saturday, September 22-24th at various locations!

FEMINIST FREEBIE! VENUS FEST PASS GIVEAWAY!  LiisBeth has two festival passes to give away to the first two LiisBethians to complete our reader survey today on September 11th! Recipients will be announced on Twitter (and notified by email).

All LiisBeth subscribers are also invited to the Venusfest Pre-Party Show and Panel which happens at the Drake Underground on Saturday, September 15th. Tickets are $12 in advance.

Feminist campers

WTF is Feminist Camp?

You can find a camp for anything: music, archery, cooking…and now, there is Feminist Camp, a front-row seat to feminist work, activism, and action beyond classroom theories. Feminist Camp is the brainchild of two women on a mission to show (mostly) college-aged women what their futures might look like. Campers meet professionals like judges, police officers, and artists who practice feminism in their jobs.

No bonfires or marshmallows, but an impromptu sing-a-long could very well erupt on the streets of New York City, Seattle, or Zambia, along with a renewed sense of direction, confidence, and possibilities. Catherine Drillis shares her thoughts from Feminist Camp’s HQ, located at Ms. Foundation in NYC. Read the piece here.

LIISBETH FIELD NOTES

The RAISE Collective

The weRAISE 2018 program featured seven women-led ventures seeking capital for growth from industries including technology and consumer goods.  The #womenRAISE campaign took place over 100 days with the cohort collectively raised $1M.

Entrepreneurs benefitted from the connections they made and to having access to the right types of capital for their specific needs.” – Jill Earthy, RAISE Founder

weRAISE is now collaborating with Female Funders, a program for women interested in investing and who are unlocking capital to support female entrepreneurs. To learn about the need to increase gender diversity within Canada’s investment ecosystem, check out the Women in Venture report.

The next weRAISE cohort launches in early 2019. Companies who want to learn more can visit www.theraisecollective.com

Thrive Podcast for Women Entrepreneurs

Brew yourself a cup and have a listen to this 30 minute podcast from Start Up Canada. Janice MacDonald chats with Petra Kassun-Mutch about everything from B-corp info, responsibilities of an entrepreneur, and the five values of the feminist business model canvas. Do you know what they are?

Pramilla Ramdahani, Founder of the Community Innovation Lab

NO WAY! A FINANCE CONFERENCE JUST FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS!

Pramilla Ramhahani (pictured above), founder and CEO of Durham region’s Community Innovation Lab saw the economic and personal transformation potential of women entrepreneurs. So she created the Refinery, a  women’s entrepreneurship program that will provide technical advisory support, workshops, bootcamps, year-long intensive coaching, and co-working hub space to an estimated 1,435+ female entrepreneurs over the next three years.

The Community Innovation Lab (CiLab), is a not for profit organization currently led by an all-female staff.

On September 12th, CiLab is holding the first women-centric finance conference of its kind in the region where they will announce a significant partnership with the Business Development Corporation to advance startups and women entrepreneurs across Ontario.

If you are looking for women-led financing opportunities, don’t miss this conference! It will be worth the drive to Durham.

The Conference will be held at the Co-ilab hub on 600 Rossland Rd., Oshawa. To get tickets visit: www.communityilab.ca

But how do you really feel? What do you really think?

LiisBeth has grown to over 1850 newsletter subscribers.  And we thought it might be time for us all to get to know ourselves better as a community. So we created the “un-reader” survey in that nu-uh, we aren’t going to ask you about what kinds of articles you like or advertiser-centric demographic questions. We don’t even advertise!

WE WANT TO KNOW: what you’re thinking about, what you care about, your views on feminism, and your take on how LiisBeth can improve.

This survey takes about 12 minutes.We also understand your time is super valuable. So in return for your generosity, we will be publishing a copy of our survey results on LiisBeth so that you too, can get to know this community better!

To take the survey now, click here.

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Vivek Shraya’s poetry collection, even this page is white, is a bold and personal interrogation of skin–its origins, functions, and limitations. Shraya paints the face of everyday racism with words, rendering it visible, tangible, and undeniable. (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) “A provocative meditation on what it means to grow up anything other than white in Canada, tackling institutional racism and sexual identity from a unique viewpoint, all delivered with astute observation and trenchant insight.” — Rollie Pemberton, former Edmonton Poet Laureate

Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times by Nick Montgomery and Carla Bergman is not what you might expect given the title. While this hard core left of centre book clearly advocates for change through activism, it has a unique perspective on this type of work and issues experienced by those working in the thick of it. If you have been growing tired of resisting Trump, Ford, and other various forms of oppression, injustice or new policies that create more barriers rather than remove them, this book serves as a bit of a pick me up.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT 

  • Healing Solidarity Online Conference
    Eunice Baguna Ball, Founder of ATBN (African Technology Business Netowork) will be speaking at Healing Solidartiy’s week-long conference about reimagining international development. Get your free ticket here.
  • New Women’s Cannabis Entrepreneur Accelerator in Oregon! The state’s first cannabis accelerator program and co-working & events space is dedicated to boosting women entrepreneurs and their weed businesses #womeninweed
  • YMCA Launch Women’s Empowerment Exchange Traded Fund — Impact Shares and YWCA US now offer an exchange traded fund (ETF) on the New York Stock Exchange enabling investors to invest in companies whose practices are aligned with gender-equality standards. Now that’s pretty cool. Will Canada’s YWCA be next?
  • Size doesn’t matter! Supporting membership to the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) is free and open to any organization that supports its objectives. To join, find out more here.
  • As the hype winds down from the federal government’s August 31st release of the Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy (sisfs.ca) Co-creation steering group’s recommendations, you can still make some noise! Email your MP or tweet about it using #sisfs #innovate4impact
    Read the full report here

That brings us to the end of our September newsletter. The next website refresh and newsletter is scheduled for October 15th, 2018.  
Did you read something of value in this newsletter?

LiisBeth is the only media voice in the world which supports the work of feminist entrepreneurs and innovators. We are 100% reader supported. If you love what we do, become a subscriber to LiisBeth! We humbly remind you that subscriptions are $3/month, $7/month or $10/month.

We are now also on Patreon!  You can choose to donate to us there!

Funds go directly towards paying writers, editors, proofreaders, photo permission fees, and illustrators. Building a more just future requires time, love—and financial support.

Enjoy September. Peace out.

                

Petra Kassun-Mutch                                                  Lana Pesch
Founding Publisher, LiisBeth                                  Newsletter & Associate Editor