Supporting women social entrepreneurs

Supporting women social entrepreneurs

The Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) offers a suite of programs for women interested in starting or growing their own venture, that seeks to have a positive social, cultural or environmental impact through its operations, and/or the sale of their products and services.

Although collectively the term ‘women’ is used throughout this page, WOSEN is dedicated to equity and inclusion, and seeks to support women-identified and gender non-binary entrepreneurs from underserved and underrepresented communities. This includes Indigenous women, women in rural or remote regions, racialized women, newcomer women, LGBTQ2+, women with disabilities, and those who identify as gender non-binary.

WOSEN works to unleash the entrepreneurial energy and capacity of women who have solutions that put people and the planet first. Together, we are redesigning how business supports are provided so these entrepreneurs build skills that match their potential and help them succeed.

CSI is offering three initiatives within the WOSEN program, check them out:

Funding and Capital: Four strategy sessions for Women Led Social Ventures

A free, 9 week program for women and gender non-binary people who are at an ideation stage

Support for women entrepreneurs and changemakers navigating the competing demands of a growing venture.


Funding and Capital:
Four strategy sessions

The WOSEN is hosting four strategy sessions for women and gender non-binary people who lead establish social ventures who have a defined need and are preparing for funding or investment in the coming year.

Dates: September 16 – October 7 on Wednesday mornings over Zoom
Applications Dates: August 7 – September 3, 2020

What can you expect?

  • Prepare for current funding opportunities matched to your needs
  • Learn how to articulate your value proposition and venture purpose in a way that helps build relationships with prospective funders
  • Understand when a grant, loan, or investment is best for your venture and how to prepare
  • Partake in peer-to-peer learning and facilitator-led discussions which will help you map out a clear and actionable capital plan
  • Tailored approach to meet the needs of your venture and industry

Before you apply, is this the right opportunity for you?

Applicants must be:

  • Women identified or gender non-binary
  • Leading a social purpose business – that can be a charity, non-profit, or social enterprise that is revenue-generating and has a defined social or ecological purpose
  • Must be incorporated as a for-profit, not-for-profit, cooperative, or charity with:
  • Working full-time on the venture with earned revenue from the venture
  • Seeking to raise capital for a defined purpose through a loan application, or a grant, or an equity raise over the next 12- 24 months; or seeking to receive COVID response supports
  • Submit a business plan or an outline of the capital needs of your organization
  • Committed to participate in four weekly sessions that are between 2-3 hours in length

Applications to the Funding and Capital Strategy Sessions are now closed. 



The Start Program 

Trying to figure out whether or not you want to be a social entrepreneur? Join the Start program to explore an area that matters to you and your community and uncover the possibilities of what your social impact can look like. If you’re ready to invest in your personal and professional growth and motivated to learn new skills, this is the program for you! 

We’ve designed this program to allow you to explore whether social entrepreneurship is right for you, while gaining valuable skills that will help your career regardless of the path you choose.

After the 9-week program is done you will have a deeper understanding of social entrepreneurship and will have:

  1. Explored an issue that matters to you
  2. Engaged in a deep dive to understand why it matters to you and your community
  3. Unravel what your social impact could look like as you develop your enterprise idea.

You will also be connected to an experienced coach that will help you with the next steps of your journey.

Applications for the first cohort are now closed. Stay tuned for more information about the second cohort in December 2020.

Individual and Group Coaching

Peer Circles

Tools and Resources

Networking Opportunities

What to Expect (Program Breakdown)

Week 0: Onboarding & Orientation!

This is a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know each other and create connections. We will also help you unpack some questions you may be wondering about, such as:

  • How do I navigate this online offering in the most efficient way?
  • What is WOSEN? Exploring the WOSEN network & Design Principles that are incorporated into programming.
  • Setting intentions: What is my vision & personal learning goals?
  • How can I engage better with my peers? Exploring the Active Listening Framework.

Weeks 1-4: Explore and gain a “bird’s eye view” of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Expand your knowledge of systems you are part of. Discover your network and how you can utilize it.

Together, we’ll begin with some of the big questions you may be asking yourself, such as:

  • What is entrepreneurship and what is social entrepreneurship?
  • What is it really like? Exploring a day in the life of an entrepreneur.
  • How do I define success? What does that look like for me?
  • What does social impact mean? How do you generate social impact?
  • How do I navigate through this complex ecosystem?

Weeks 5-8: Discover and explore your purpose and areas of interest. Build on your skills, and strengthen your entrepreneurial competencies. Create an action plan for yourself.

Questions answered during this phase include:

  • What skills and resources do I need to get started? Where can I find them?
  • How do I create social and/or environmental impact?
  • How do I build an action plan to move my idea forward?
  • How can I learn from other women’s entrepreneurial journeys?
  • Who am I as a leader? And how can I utilize people within my network as I take the next step?

After the 9-week program is done you will have:

  1. Explored an issue that matters to you
  2. Engaged in a deep dive to understand why it matters to you and your community
  3. Unravelled what your social impact could look like as you develop your enterprise idea.

You will also be connected to an experienced coach that will help you with the next steps of your journey.

You will gain a deeper understanding of social entrepreneurship and also gain entrepreneurial skills that will help you in any career path, regardless of whether or not you decide to start a social purpose business.

Our Learning Outcomes

Week 0: How to navigate the online offering, awareness of WOSEN, creating connections, setting intentions, importance of active & deep listening skills through the program.

  • WEEK 0 – Onboarding & Orientation Session

Weeks 1-4: Igniting imagination, discovering and expanding your understanding of yourself, larger networks and social impact.

  • WEEK 1 – Social Entrepreneurship & your story of self
  • WEEK 2 – Exploring orthodoxies & awareness of the entrepreneurship ecosystem
  • WEEK 3 – Exploring inner journeys & definitions of success
  • WEEK 4 – Taking an ecosystem approach for social impact & navigating systems

Weeks 5-8: Themes: Building skills while strengthening, practicing, and experimenting.

  • WEEK 5 – Unravelling your entrepreneurial toolkit & building networks of support
  • WEEK 6 – Fostering mindsets & building action plans
  • WEEK 7 – Exploring first steps & cautionary tales
  • WEEK 8 – Expanding networks of support & connecting with your coach

Entrepreneurial Competencies You'll Gain

The Start program will allow you to gain many entrepreneurial competencies no matter what path you decide to take after the program ends! Here are some of the skills you will learn from this course:

  • Personal & Community Asset Mapping: Identify your strengths (assets) and gaps, and learn how to connect to external resources to help you succeed.
  • Storytelling: Crafting and telling stories to understand the impact you want to make and learning how to connect with audiences.
  • Critical Thinking & Research Skills: Learn how to problem solve, collect data and analyze it.
  • Design & Systems Thinking: Understanding the numerous factors that contribute to a problem you are wanting to solve.
  • Active Listening: Learn how to listen deeply and effectively in order to build strong relationships.
  • Inner Confidence & Awareness: Gain inner strength to connect to your values and goals.
  • Time Management & Goal Setting: Set realistic goals for your action plan.
  • Decision Making: Selecting the best course of action that will bring about authentic change.

Important Timelines

  • Applications Open – August 19th
  • Applications Close – September 13th
  • Selected Participants Notified – Week of September 21st
  • Orientation & Onboarding Week 0 – Wednesday October 7th, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
  • 1-hour, weekly peer support groups (in between workshops) – TBD once program starts
  • Programming Weeks 1-8 – Online, every Wednesday (October 14th – December 2nd), 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Note: Start will be offered again for 9 weeks online (daytime programming from 9:30am – 12:30pm) beginning February 2021. Stay tuned for the next round of applications in December 2020.

Eligibility Requirements for Start

Are you motivated to explore what it’s like being a social entrepreneur to create a positive change?


  • You identify as a woman or gender non binary
  • Your social enterprise idea is a produce or service the will create measurable positive exchange in your community
  • You are at least 18 years old
  • You are interested in becoming a social entrepreneur
  • You are motivated and open to learning, feedback, and new ideas
  • You want to be part of & contribute to an outstanding community of women
  • You are available to join evening programming (Wednesdays from 6pm to 9pm).

Canadian citizenship is not required to participate in the Start program.


  • Attend 9 online workshop sessions (Wednesdays from 6pm to 9pm)
  • Be able to commit between 4-6 hours per week
  • Participate in a 1 hour weekly peer support group session (throughout the program)
  • Complete relevant coursework and exercises at your own pace
  • Attend three one-hour, one-to-one coaching sessions (a three-hour commitment outside of class)
  • Always show respect and empathy towards your fellow participants
  • Supporting WOSEN’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility

Questions? For more information, please contact Mitalie Makhani, Senior Programs Manager & WOSEN Central Ontario Program Lead, at


The Grow Accelerator

Ready to take your social purpose business to the next level? This program is for you!

Grow is a three-month accelerator launching in 2021 designed to support women-led, validation-stage social enterprises. Participants will benefit from one-to-one coaching with experienced coaches, in-class learning opportunities, and workspace at the Centre for Social Innovation.

To qualify for Grow you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • You are woman-identifying or gender non-binary
  • 50% or more of your business is women-owned
  • Your business or start-up is a for-profit or a nonprofit
  • You have a social purpose business with some initial traction
  • You are motivated and open to learning, feedback, and new ideas
  • You want to be part of an outstanding community of women
  • You are available to join daytime programming in Toronto held at CSI Annex (720 Bathurst Ave.) or online programming.

Canadian citizenship is not required to participate.

Interested in Grow? Sign up to be notified when applications open!

Photo credit: Matthew Burpee

More About WOSEN

The Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) is a collaborative led by Pillar Nonprofit Network alongside Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), SVX, NORDIK Institute and Lean 4 Flourishing. WOSEN proposes to broaden and diversify the entrepreneurial ecosystem supporting women through inclusive program design. This will support 150 new women-led social enterprises across Ontario and help grow 75 existing ones, as well as offer 10 women-centred innovation training sessions to 250 people in 12 communities. CSI, along with members of the WOSEN partnership are committed to moving forward a set of key design principles in our Start program & Grow accelerator.

Our programs are designed to be:

– Inclusive and accessible
– Systems-informed
– Decolonized
– Responsive
– Human-centred

Inclusion & Diversity Statement

CSI is dedicated to equity and inclusion, and encourages participation of women entrepreneurs from underserved and underrepresented communities – including Indigenous and two-spirit women, trans women, women with disabilities, racialized women and newcomer women, and all other women-identified people experiencing systemic barriers to success.

Partners & Funders

WOSEN is funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The Government of Canada is advancing gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, and supporting women entrepreneurs through the new Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, announced in the Budget 2018. It is a $2-billion investment that seeks to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025.

Fed Dev Ontario

Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network

Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) logo

Photo credit: Matthew Burpee