Announcing the Winner of Startup Canada’s Mentorship Challenge

When Startup Canada issued a national challenge to entrepreneurs and enterprise organizations to help mentor 10,000 Canadians during Global Entrepreneurship Week, it wanted to turn heads and showcase the value mentorship can have on both local and national levels.

Today, Startup Canada named British Columbia’s Women’s Enterprise Centre as its 2012 Canadian Mentorship Challenge winner for overall reach, impact and inspiration.
“One of the takeaways I got from this is that we’re going to have to host more events,” said Laurel Douglas, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre, from the organization’s head office in Kelowna. “There’s a pent up demand for mentoring.” She hopes this is just the start of something big for BC entrepreneurs.

She noted that within BC, 36% of the province’s small business owners are women, yet studies have shown female entrepreneurs have a harder time accessing capital and growing their ventures. From November 13 to 16, more than 4,500 entrepreneurs across BC were engaged in activities hosted by Women’s Enterprise Centre, including a speed mentoring activity, a mentor panel discussion, one-to-one mentoring sessions, two Twitter chats, a Facebook ‘Ask the Expert’ event, a phone-in mentor advisory forum, plus several blog posts and an eNews issue focused on mentoring.

With offices in Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria, Women’s Enterprise Centre offers skills development, business loans, and other resource services to more than 137,000 women business owners in BC. Women’s Enterprise Centre also hosts a network of more than 150 mentors across the province.

The timing of the Challenge with Global Entrepreneurship Week was an excellent fit, noted Tessa Mintz, a VP at the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

“Combined with the discussions and sharing on social media, this truly demonstrates that Canadians who support entrepreneurship are living the philosophy that we’re all in this together,” said Mintz. “The Canadian Youth Business Foundation looks forward to working with Startup Canada and our partners across Canada towards Global Entrepreneurship Week 2013.”

While Women’s Enterprise Centre claimed the winner’s title, there were other front-runner events in the Canadian Mentorship Challenge:

  • MentorCity’s Shark’s Pond (Toronto) – Seneca College hosted nearly 500 attendees for a Dragon’s Den-like event. Hatem Jabshan, the CEO of Steeped Tea and a recent Dragon’s Den success story, gave a keynote talk and student entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to the “Sharks”, many of whom were Seneca graduates.
  • Startup Weekend Québec City (Québec City) – This event brought together 74 participants and 22 mentors to form teams and launch startups in just 54 hours. The final pitches were live-streamed to nearly 200 people and many of the Startup Weekend participants have enrolled in the “NEXT Quebec” program to launch the business ideas created at the event.
  • Invest Ottawa Mentor Madness (Ottawa) – Invest Ottawa kicked off Global Entrepreneurship Week in the nation’s capital with Mentor Madness which saw 40 entrepreneurs and 40 Mentors participate in a speed mentoring event. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with mentors identifying 82 follow-up requests. Click here for the interview on CBC Radio.

“Having such a diverse collection of communities participate in the Challenge has demonstrated how broad of a spectrum there is for mentorship opportunities across the country,” said Irenia Roussel, one of the Mentorship Challenge Directors. “Each community has different and unique challenges and given this was a pilot project, we have identified a number of areas where we can enhance this Challenge for an even larger audience next year.”

Moaz Mohammed, another Mentorship Challenge Director, has been on both sides of a mentor relationship—first as a mentee early in his career, and now as a mentor to others.

“From that experience, I saw that mentoring has a deep impact on where a person takes their career and their life and it’s really important to have a strong mentor in your life,” said Mohammed. “I think one of the greatest impacts of the Challenge was that it allowed a lot of the participating organizations to come together on one platform and see what everyone else is doing and really showcase how important mentoring is for businesses and individuals.”

Startup Canada also used the Canadian Mentorship Challenge to recognize Canada’s Top 10 Mentor Rock Stars, nominated for their contributions of volunteer work and leadership development in their communities.