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 angel investors through our partnership with 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 as well as our partners at the Peterborough Region Angel Network.

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

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, 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.
    • Have access to the Innovation Cluster's Client Portal, which hosts a wealth of past workshops and educational resources for new businesses.
    • 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.

The program is divided into monthly themes, all designed to give you the tools you need to establish and grow your company. At the beginning of each month, you will receive a more detailed schedule of activities, from webinars and workshops to assignments and keynote speakers. The final month will be spent preparing for and delivering your pitch to the Peterborough Region Angel Network (PRAN). Monthly themes include Business and Financial Planning, Marketing and Branding, Sales and Finance, Networking and Advisory Boards, and Pitching and Investments.

As an accelerator program, Women Breaking Barriers is a more intensive time commitment than our regular incubation program. Expect to attend 1-2 virtual workshops per week, a monthly challenge or assignment, and regular meetings with your advisor. We know life as an entrepreneur is busy! We try to accommodate your needs within the virtual programming as best as possible, including recorded workshops and one-on-one check-ins.

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 (solving a social problem through a novel solution. The solution does not need to be STEM related but it must be new and innovative)
    • 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

Info Session

We  cover:

  • Program overview
  • Application process
  • What to expect
  • Tips for your application
  • Answer all of your burning questions!

Camila Duarte

STARTup Visa Program Manager

Alana leads the Innovation Cluster’s STARTup Visa Program, and works closely advising international entrepreneurs.

Have a question?

Phone: (705) 536-1101 Extension 906

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 March, 2021 for the second 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.


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


"My participation in the IC was a game changer for both me at a personal level and my business, especially given the impact of Covid-19. 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."

Othalia Bruce

"I have been so fortunate to participate in the first cohort of the WBB program.  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."

Jenn Andersen
Saven App

"The Women Breaking Barriers 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."

Stephanie Hendren
Peterborough Microgreens

"Belonging to Women Breaking Barriers 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." 

Christine Pasciak
BioRegentech Inc

"Women Breaking Barriers has been such a supportive program. We launched our business during the 4th 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!"

Robin Linton
Undu Wearables