Women Breaking Barriers Accelerator Program


Women Breaking Barriers is the first virtual accelerator program that promotes women pursuing innovative careers through science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and social innovation in Peterborough and the Kawarthas (including but not limited to: City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Apsley, Lakefield, Bridgenorth, Curve Lake, Millbrook, Haliburton, Bobcaygeon, and more) OR interested in relocating the business to Peterborough and the Kawarthas region.

This program will intake two cohorts of 10 women aged 18 or older through six months (per cohort) of fast-tracked programming and mentorship to reduce barriers for female founders to grow and scale their businesses.

With targeted training, mentorships, collaboration, and access to funding, Women Breaking Barriers is poised to change the lives and trajectory of female-led companies. The program is intended for startups with fewer than 10 employees or for those who are just at the idea stage, the program will provide learning, growth, and funding opportunities through a process designed to bring great minds together. 

Canadian women entrepreneurs are key to our economic success, and they make invaluable contributions to our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women entrepreneurs. However, women still face unique and systemic barriers to starting and growing a business, and they remain underrepresented in our economy especially in STEM and Social Innovation.

This is also an excellent opportunity to commercialize research. The Innovation Cluster’s partnership with two world class education institutions in the region, Trent University and Fleming College, will ensure a smooth transition into business for the selected companies.

At the end of the six month program, each business will have the opportunity to pitch directly to angels investors in the Peterborough Region Angel Network for investment. This will give the companies the chance to not only receive investment but also have direct access to a group of experienced individuals with a wide network.

If you’re ready to carve your own path, this program is for you!

Quick Facts

We aim to help increase these numbers. Women in the cohort will gain the skills and knowledge to achieve greater financial independence, amplify their startup company and achieve success in their careers.

Statistics show that it is difficult for women to access financing and investment. This program takes that into consideration in order to put women in front of financiers early on with specific financing streams built specifically for the startups in the cohort through Community Futures organizations in our region.

What's more, only 4% of venture capital funding goes toward women-led companies, and female founders who are women of colour get less than 1% of venture capital each year. Enter Women Breaking Barriers accelerator program.

Program Overview

Cohort 1

Applications open: August 4, 2020
Applications close: August 27, 2020 at 12NOON
Program begins: September 1, 2020
Program ends: February 28, 2021

Cohort 2

Applications open: TBA
Applications close: TBA
Program begins: March 1, 2021
Program ends: August 31, 2021

If you are accepted into the program, you will join like-minded founders as we take you through perfecting your business plan, developing your entrepreneurial skills, networking and making connections to grow your business, refining your pitch skills and growing your business. At the end of the six months you will have the unique opportunity to pitch directly to the Peterborough Region Angel Network, which has invested over six million dollars into companies so far.

Throughout the program, participants will:

  • Work on their company with focus and goal setting.
  • Meet with Innovation Specialists (mentors and advisors) weekly to stay on track.
  • Have access to Innovation Partners in marketing, finance, law, accounting, team coaching, leadership, loan services and more.
  • Attend private and public virtual workshops ranging from basic to advanced levels.
  • Meet like-minded female founders and develop lifelong relationships.
  • Work alongside other entrepreneurs with similar goals in mind.
  • Build new networks.
  • Fast-track their business.
  • Receive easy and direct access to financing programs.
  • Be held accountable by mentors and peers.
  • Individual and personalized pitch preparation with the Innovation Cluster and the Peterborough Region Angel Network.
  • Pitch to the Peterborough Region Angel Network for investment and network opportunities.
  • Potential to be introduced to other angel networks through the Innovation Cluster's relationship with Angel Investors Ontario.

Eligibility Requirements

Our mission through this acceleration program is to educate diverse women who are interested in leading a scalable business in STEM or Social Innovation. We encourage all applications but for more detailed criteria of what we are looking for, read more:

  • The current business or business idea must be based in any of the following categories or sectors (*Please note: You are considered 'tech' if your primary business objective is to develop and distribute custom built technology, excluding re-distribution/consultancy):
    • Science (agriculture, clean technology, healthcare, commercialization of research and more)
    • Technology (ICT, SaaS, video game, digital solutions and more)
    • Engineering
    • Math
    • Social Innovation
    • Intellectual Property (IP) based business
    • New Innovation
  • The business must be early-stage (under two years in market/operation *some exceptions made), a new business idea or in the early stages of planning the business OR an existing business with new innovative product development
  • Under 10 employees
  • Under $1M in revenue (or if the business is pre-revenue)
  • A female-identified/woman is, or female-identified/women are, driving the direction of the business as Founder, Co-Founder, CEO, C-Suite Executive (i.e. CTO, CFO, COO, etc.), Owner-Operator, Principal, etc. and/or the business is owned by a woman or women (combined) that have majority ownership (a minimum of 51% equity stake)
  • Interested in introducing new and innovative solutions to current business problems, practices or products
  • A driven, coachable and collaborative founder/team
  • Able to work with the Innovation Cluster virtually and participate in all programming for the duration of the 6 month accelerator program (potential to continue working with the Innovation Cluster following the initial 6 month program for further support)
  • The business/founder must be based in the region of Peterborough and the Kawarthas (including but not limited to: City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Apsley, Lakefield, Bridgenorth, Curve Lake, Millbrook, Haliburton, Bobcaygeon, and more - see the map for our full catchment area) OR interested in relocating the business to Peterborough and the Kawarthas

Rosalea Terry

Marketing Manager & Senior Innovation Specialist

Rose works directly with entrepreneurs and startups to help scale their businesses through mentorship and teaching workshops. She develops the marketing strategies to reach Peterborough and the Kawartha’s up and coming entrepreneurs with her marketing team.

Have a question?

Tel: (705) 536-1101 ext. 904

The Application Process

To apply for the Women Breaking Barriers accelerator program, fill out our application form. When completing the application form, select the Women Breaking Barriers option under the subheader 'Sector' to indicate the program you are applying for.

Once the application is submitted, 10 will be selected to enter the program to start at the beginning of September, 2020 for the first cohort. Selected companies will be notified prior to the start date about the orientation and onboarding process.

Questions regarding the application process or program can be directed to rterry@innovationcluster.ca

*Please note that you are not required to submit a business plan or cash flow report if you do not have one at this time.

DEADLINE: August 27 at NOON

With support from:

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded $115 million to 644 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario. www.otf.ca


“The Innovation Cluster has been instrumental in the success of Horizon Aircraft thus far. Their deep business experience, high-quality network, and strong leadership have helped our company sharpen our business plan, attract investors, and launch a brighter future for all of aviation. We are excited for this opportunity to become available for the many talented entrepreneurs in Lindsay. The result will undoubtedly be more jobs and a strengthened economic base in Lindsay and the City of Kawartha Lakes.”

Brandon Robinson
Chief Executive Officer
Horizon Aircraft

“The Innovation Cluster has been a great connection for my community startup platform IDHUBS. The Cluster has helped us to connect with many like-minded businesses, organizations and influencers in the community. This has been essential, as our platform addresses the need for a seamless integrated solution for community organizations. We have made many connections and are very thankful to the Innovation Cluster for this opportunity.”

Rojit Sorokhaibam

“The Innovation Cluster has been crucial to the success of Mamasoup. The support and guidance provided by the sponsors, knowledge partners, staff and other startups make me a stronger entrepreneur and I can’t wait to be part of the incubator in Lindsay, closer to my home!”

Joanne Ilaqua

“The Innovation Cluster has been a great resource by supporting me through business planning, financial forecasting and marketing. It also gives me the opportunity to work alongside other startups and share information and help each other out. It is a community of like-minded and energetic entrepreneurs. I started my business in the City of Kawartha Lakes and having the opportunity to work here in the environment that the Innovation Cluster is a huge benefit in helping my business launch and reach new markets, while being based in a beautiful area of the Province."

Graeme Barrie