Successful Women Breaking Barriers Accelerator Program Announces 10 New Participants of Second Cohort

The Innovation Cluster has officially announced the 10 participants that will take part in the second cohort of Women Breaking Barriers, a six month acceleration program designed specifically for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and social innovation. The program’s first cohort ran from September 2020 to February 2021.

Chosen businesses range across STEM and social innovation including the creation of biodegradable products, mobile apps, food & drink distribution, cricket farming and more. The 10 female-led companies that make up the cohort are:

  • Catherine Howe – Founder of Tamarack, an initiative that merges the farm-to-table movement with youth-based social agriculture and wellness mentorship.

  • Donna Enright – Founder of ShopCloseBuy, an innovative community eCommerce and Marketing platform.

  • Donna Masters – Founder of Monketivity, a platform to provide transparent, factual information on health and wellness topics.

  • Joanne Ilaqua – Founder of Mamasoup, a mobile app that provides a support ecosystems for mothers.

  • Kristen Corrigan – Founder of Peer Support Online, an online platform for peer support moderated groups or one-to-one chat sessions.

  • Lee Hamr – Creating a distribution system for cider apples and juice in Ontario, while creating training opportunities for youth.

  • Maxyme Cloutier – Founding Member of Ghoster33 R&D Inc., which aims to create biodegradable smoking equipment.

  • Natalie Ambler – Director at OptiSolve Ltd., engineering technology to advance cleaning and disinfecting productivity for improved environmental health and safety.

  • Natalie Duncan – Founder of Bug Mars, which aims to create self-sustained, modular, automated, and attractive cricket farms for a range of applications across home and commercial uses.

  • Nicole St.Denis – Creating an interactive directory service website and mobile app platform where small and medium-sized businesses are banding together to end community hunger.

The program is supported by RBC and the Ontario Trillium Foundation funding through its Seed stream. A total of $75,000 will go towards needs including hiring professionals, supplies, workshops and events.

“Women Breaking Barriers has been such a supportive program,” says Robin Linton, co-founder of Undu Wearables and WBB cohort one participant. “We launched our business during the fourth month! The access to knowledge leaders, mentors with diverse experiences, templates and resources all helped to successfully launch our business. To ask for help & to receive it, to talk about femtech & menstrual pain and not be met with uncomfortable faces, to be vulnerable & collaborative…These are just some of the invaluable benefits to working with women-identified folks in the inaugural cohort of this incredible accelerator program! The connections being made are real, the community is powerful, and I think we need more programs like this!

“This targeted programming is proving to be far more important for the female-led companies than we had even initially expected, ” says Rosalea Terry, lead of the Women Breaking Barriers program, Marketing Manager and Senior Innovation Specialist with the Innovation Cluster. “This accelerator program is changing the lives of female-founders and the trajectory of their companies. It does so by giving them easy access to financing, the proper resources to become successful and a group of like-minded founders to weather the storm of entrepreneurship with. We hope to extend it beyond the one year pilot.”

The first cohort wrapped up at the end of February, and each participant was able to pitch to the Peterborough Region Angel Network, with multiple companies moving forward with discussions of investment.

The overall pilot program is one year long, consisting of two separate cohorts of up to ten women that last six months each.

Participants have every opportunity to accelerate their company during the program, which includes specific and advanced training sessions, weekly mentorship with advisors, peer-to-peer learning, community networking and more.

“The Women Breaking Barriers program has really pushed me to take my business to the next level,” says Stephanie Hendren, creator of Peterborough Microgreens and WBB cohort one participant. “The resources and support provided are invaluable. I feel like my chances of success are far higher after participating in this program.”⁠

Statistics show that 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.

This program is made possible through funding by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded $108 million to 629 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario.