The City of Corner Brook is launching a new program to provide assistance to women entrepreneurs during the early stages of growing their businesses.
The Assistance to Women Entrepreneurs of Small or Medium Enterprises Program (AWESOME) is designed to help new women-run businesses and start-ups by waiving business taxes for up to two years.
The city says they hope to officially launch the program by the end of April, and that there’s already been interest.
An application form will be shared when the program begins, but any new business that registers with the city — or any business that started in the last three years, with some exceptions — can be part of the program if the business is solely or majority owned by women.
Kayla Butler started her photography business in the city three years ago, and sees it as an exciting opportunity to cultivate more female entrepreneurship.
“I think that could bring immense help, because taxes is a very scary time for a lot of people,” Butler told CBC News on Friday.
“I think Corner Brook is probably the perfect sized place to start it. There’s emerging entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs.”
Jennifer Bessell, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, said her organization is delighted to see the city look at female entrepreneurship under the microscope.
She says many women who want to start a business can face gender-specific hurdles, like access to capital or unconscious biases in their fields.
“There’s more awareness of the fact that we need to make change, and there’s more of a commitment in order to make that change,” Bessell said.
“Businesses in their early days, that’s when they’re more susceptible to failure, and it’s because of lack of access to capital. So by suspending the business tax, they’re therefore putting more opportunities for that capital to be used in different ways by the business. And making them more likely to succeed.”
Bessell encouraged other regions across Newfoundland and Labrador to look out for how the project develops, adding that it has potential to be successful elsewhere.
“Take that kind of long range look at it. Look at this, you know, five years from now,” she said.
“See the businesses that start during this growth phase and the longevity of them. The fact that they’re still around, and maybe make those connections between having that additional funding … and the fact that the managed to get through that first hurdle.”