TD and NPC shine spotlight on female entrepreneurs

February 28, 2023

TD is supporting the upcoming report, ‘Leading Companies. Powered by Women.’ the latest in NPC’s  Game Changers series. NPC talks to the head of TD’s Women in Enterprise program on how this initiative supports Canadian female entrepreneurs.

Here at NPC we enjoy a strong client base of female-led or founded companies, and we’ve demonstrated our belief in them through our investments, financial programming support, and various other services we provide. Not because they are women, but because their technologies and businesses are strong.

But the stats remain troubling regarding women in business:

With the data suggesting female business owners still face barriers, we decided to use our next Game Changers report to showcase some of the best natural product companies in Canada that just happen to be founded or led by females.

We are very pleased to have TD as corporate sponsor for this project. They share our vision for supporting women owned/led businesses in a way that deeply respects the quality and calibre of the business, and that doesn’t succumb to the ‘pinkwashing’ that can often happen around these initiatives.

Krystal Van Westerop, National Manager, Women in Enterprise, TD Business Banking

Over several discussions with TD we’ve been impressed with their approach to supporting female entrepreneurs. It’s not flashy, but thoughtful and authentic. They’ve looked seriously at the way financial institutions serve – and fail to serve – women. And they’ve turned those learnings into a highly effective and integrated approach.

“When we started thinking about our process, we were hesitant to do anything that didn’t actually remove barriers for women,” says Krystal van Westerop, National Manager, Women in Enterprise. “It was incredibly important to us that we were ‘doing it’, and not just saying it.”

For TD, this meant making sure that the bankers themselves were more thoroughly educated in how to support female entrepreneurs.

TD developed an accredited Women in Enterprise (WE) bankers program. It’s done on a volunteer basis – bankers opt in because they choose, not because they’re told to – to help them learn how to serve women business owners better. They went from 17 accredited WE bankers in their 2020 pilot in Quebec to now almost 200 across the country.

The TD WE program also addresses some aspects of support for women entrepreneurs through organizations across the country that provide mentoring, coaching, start-up capital and other resources to women-run/owned businesses.

van Westerop says TD was reluctant to develop specific products that are just for women – but rather to ensure that women have access to existing products. Facilitating that access by understanding the perspective and realities the women, and addressing them in a meaningful way.

“Acknowledging the different approaches of women, with a case in point being the tendency to self-finance,” says van Westerop. “It can have implications for the ability to grow the business, but also can mean women are digging into their own savings and jeopardizing their own personal financial security.”

And a recent report by Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub indicates women on average have a credit score 15 points lower than men, which can impact their ability to access credit. The reasons behind those categorically lower credit scores can range dramatically on an individual basis, but there are some common issues of wage gaps, time off for childraising, and the persistence of household responsibilities (childcare, cooking and cleaning) that still fall disproportionately to women, which can limit opportunities for taking on larger roles or professional development.

“When you look at the realities of women across the board, and then at individual situations, you can see why understanding and building those relationships can make a substantial difference to the success of the female entrepreneur.”

All of this led to the synergistic sponsorship with NPC to showcase some of the best Canadian bio-based companies in the Game Changers report.

“Everything about this idea aligned so well with our values because it provides a platform for women entrepreneurs to tell their story,” says van Westerop. “We’re excited to see how it will help.”

The Game Changers report will be launched on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Media inquiries and requests for advance copies may be submitted to Sue Coueslan, VP Strategy and Partnerships, NPC.

Related: Don’t miss the #IWD2023 special webinar co-hosted by Natural Products Canada and the Canadian Food Innovation Network, with financial support from TD.