A three-year pilot project in Lethbridge is nearing completion. The women entrepreneurs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (WEST) program proves to be a great success.
Sinmi Esene is co-founder of the Lethbridge based company BIPOC Foundation. It provides business support to the BIPOC population.
She said the success of implementing her vision was helped by the WESTEM program.
“They believed in us, that kept us going because we knew there was going to be more opportunity for more entrepreneurs to come here, especially for women in business, if we can pull it off,” Esene said.
The pilot project started in 2019 and was created by Economic Development Lethbridge and Tecconnect. The scheme is completely free and Renae Barlow, Lethbridge’s vice-president for entrepreneurship and innovation for economic development, said it has been a great success.
“We’ve had over 200 women supported by this program, 80 percent of whom went on to start their own businesses,” Barlow said. “Of the other 20 percent, there are some existing companies that have said, ‘Hey, with that added understanding and resources, I actually need to pivot or go back and reevaluate my business and how I can move it forward.'”
Carol Lamb started her vanilla production company baking barn in 2020. She is a WESTEM participant and hopes other aspiring entrepreneurs will take advantage of the startup education and programs.
“Accept the help,” she said. “Don’t just try it on your own either, and don’t just read it in books or whatever, because you could be doing that a long time ago. They tailor and make everything for you.
“When I had questions about government stuff, labels – anything special to me – they were so helpful.”
Funding for the pilot project expires this June. Barlow said they are working hard to secure funding to keep the program going and continue to bring women into the world of entrepreneurship.
Anyone looking for information or assistance with their business endeavors can contact Barlow and find out which program best suits their needs.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8699747/lethbridge-westem-pilot-program-entrepreneurs/ Lethbridge’s WESTEM program is designed to expand upon the previous Lethbridge pilot