Twenty-five women have formed a new Okanagan angel investment fund that will focus on correcting the gender imbalance faced by women owned businesses when seeking investment and increase the number of women who are active start-up company investors.
“To mark International Women’s Day, the new Okanagan Women’s Mentoring and Angel Network (WMAN) will begin accepting applications from women founded, led or co-led businesses from the Okanagan region,” says Co-founder and General Partner, Camille Saltman. “Our goal is to increase the number of women angel investors, remedy the gender gap in start-up funding and aid women business owners who are bearing the brunt of economic fallout from the pandemic.”
Okanagan WMAN is part of an initiative called the Women’s Equity Lab (WEL) founded in Victoria in 2017. Women’s Equity Lab’s (WEL) mission is to increase equal gender opportunity in the area of early stage investing. To date, under the WEL banner, three funds have been launched in Victoria since 2017 and one in Vancouver in 2020.
In the WEL model, partners in the investment round meet regularly to learn how to invest in companies, discuss opportunities, vet deal flow and make investment decisions. In the Okanagan each participant will invest $5,500 for a pool of almost $140,000, which is then used to co-invest in companies the group thinks will generate the best return.
Says WEL Okanagan Co-founder and General Partner, Carollynn Schafer – who is also Director of OKGN Angel Summit, “Angel investing is as much about the business as it about the people. As we work towards a more equitable distribution of funding, it will be important for entrepreneurial women and women investors to witness and connect with each other. By creating a women’s network, we hope to create a space for women that not only expands their knowledge of angel investing but also builds a thriving community of female entrepreneurs and investors.”
Inspiration to create the Okanagan WMAN group came from Saltman’s experience with her colleague Sarah Sutherland building the entrepreneurship@UBCO Accelerator for The University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus. They found that once completing the mentoring program women-led start-ups still struggled to obtain investment. In exploring why they found a great deal of recent research on the impact of the gender gap:
- In January 2021, research from International Finance Corporation, Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative and World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab, in partnership with Village Capital shows that after participating in an accelerator women land 2.5 times as much bank financing and men land 2.5 as much equity financing.
- A May 2019 “Women in Venture” report released by Female Funders, an initiative of venture capital firm Highline Beta, found 16.7 percent of angel group members and 13.2 percent of venture capital partners in Canada were women
- In December 2020, a study from small business accounting software, FreshBooks found that, on average, women-owned businesses in Canada are taking nearly twice as long to recover from the financial setbacks brought on by COVID-19 compared to businesses owned by men. Based on a variety of studies women are more likely to care for children and the elderly which means taking time away from their business and businesses dominated by women like education and healthcare were the first to be locked down.
To remedy the imbalance, one year ago at RBC’s International Women’s Day Luncheon, Saltman, Sutherland and Trina Warren, Managing Partner of MNP LLP decided to build a local angel network of women and began to bring together successful business owners and retired executives, accountants, attorneys, scientists and realtors. The effort was helped by a grant to support women entrepreneurship from RBC. All the investors have a shared interest in getting capital working in women led start-ups and learning and sharing more about early stage investing.
Says WEL Okanagan Co-founder and General Partner, Sherri Faloon, “I am thrilled to be part of an initiative that encourages more women to pull up a chair to the investor table in a collaborative, learn by doing fund model. Starting a business can be daunting, but having access to funding and mentorship through the collective experience of 20+ successful businesswomen and entrepreneurs will make a big difference for early stage start-ups in the Okanagan region. I believe our focus on female founders and leaders will not only help to level the playing field, but lead to more game-changing ideas making it to market and an increase in women-led business in general.”
For more information contact:
Applications for funding can be sent to: