Innovation Cluster Opens Applications for Cohort 2 of Women Breaking Barriers Accelerator Program

The Innovation Cluster has officially opened applications for the second cohort of Women Breaking Barriers (WBB), a six-month cohort acceleration program designed specifically for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and social innovation. This program has allowed women to fast track their companies and reduce barriers for female founders including the unique opportunity to pitch to angel investors at the end of six months at absolutely no cost to them. This program has been made possible by a $75,000 Seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and RBC.

Ten were accepted into the first cohort, which began in September 2020 and will finish at the end of February with a pitch to the Peterborough Region Angel Network. The first cohort’s companies range in their technology specialization, including wound healing, blockchain education, and environmental sustainability.

“Targeted programs are essential to decrease roadblocks and move the dial forward for female-led companies in STEM and Social Innovation which face unique challenges,” says Rosalea Terry, lead of the Women Breaking Barriers program, Marketing Manager and Senior Innovation Specialist with the Innovation Cluster. “With the first cohort coming to an end, we have seen how much of a difference this program can make and the group has exceeded all expectations. The founders are about to pitch to the Peterborough Region Angel Network made up of over thirty investors, with multiple ready to receive investment.”

The purpose of the program is to help companies receive the support needed to grow at an accelerated pace compared to being on their own. The program includes specific and advanced training sessions geared toward female founders, weekly mentorship with advisors, peer-to-peer learning, community networking and more.

“My participation in the Innovation Cluster was a game changer for both me at a personal level and my business, especially given the impact of Covid-19,” says Othalia Doe-Bruce who is the Founder of InnovFin Consulting and a blockchain expert who is building a unique blockchain based solution. “I was lucky to be selected as one of the very few brilliant women disrupting their industries and to benefit from the support of knowledgeable and experienced advisors, mentors and experts. I encourage aspiring female entrepreneurs to apply to the program and see their ideas and businesses exponentially boosted.”

One founder currently lives in the United States with plans to move to the region for its abundance of support.

Statistics show that only six per cent of tech companies have a female CEO, and only eight per cent of Directors on boards of Canadian tech companies are women. As well, only four per cent of VC funding goes toward women-led companies and founders who are women of colour get less than one per cent of venture capital each year. The Innovation Cluster is working to change these numbers through the targeted program. 

“I have been so fortunate to participate in the first cohort of the WBB program,” says Jennifer Andersen, Founder of Saven App. “This program has not only introduced me to the most amazing and inspiring group of female entrepreneurs but it has challenged me to grow, expand and develop my business from what was an idea into reality. I am so genuinely proud to be a part of this group.  With the knowledge and experiences I have gained throughout the program’s duration I know whatever future my business has in store was developed from a strong basis in the financial, marketing, and business leadership and education the WBB provided.”

The Innovation Cluster is excited to promote the second cohort opening to female founders across its catchment area, reaching as far north as Haliburton and individuals looking to move to the area.

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 in 2019 to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario. www.otf.ca 

Join our virtual information session for interested applicants on February 2, at 12noon.

Applications close on Friday, February 12, 2021, with programming starting March 1, 2021.

Visit the Women Breaking Barriers Page to learn more.

From Cohort 1 Founders. . .

“The WBB program has literally been a rocket ship for my business. This program has pushed me and my business to new levels and new growth I didn’t even imagine was possible in such a short time. The women in this program are extremely supportive and exactly what I needed to get out of my comfort zone. If you are a female entrepreneur, I cannot urge you enough to apply for this program; it has seriously changed my life.”

“The WBB program has really pushed me to take my business to the next level. The resources and support provided are invaluable. I feel like my chances of success are far higher after participating in this program.”

“Belonging to the WBB has been very helpful to us and our business.  Everyone associated with the program is extremely insightful and the experts in residence are great mentors.”