Supporting women social entrepreneurs

Supporting women social entrepreneurs

Start or Grow your women-led social enterprise

Do you want to create positive social and environmental change in your community and the world? Start or grow a business with impact today!

CSI is offering two social enterprise training programs as part of the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN). The Start program and the Grow accelerator will help women entrepreneurs develop and advance their skills and social purpose businesses.

Announcement: We’ve pivoted our programming to support women and non-binary people who lead existing organizations with positive social or environmental impact in their response to the crisis and the recovery of COVID-19. Resilience is a responsive 16-week online program that provides access to structured programming, a community of peers, materials, coaches, and support organizations for social enterprises.

The Resilience program themes are:

  • Pivoting on Purpose: Business Model Innovation
  • Managing & Leading in Times of Uncertainty
  • Emerging HR, Legal & Risk Concerns
  • Moving Online: Leveraging & Learning New Technology For Your Business
  • Managing Finances, Funding & Wayfinding New Government Supports
  • Building Resilient Networks of Support

Photo credit: Matthew Burpee

Program Overview: Start & Grow

We will provide a safe and supportive environment for women to explore entrepreneurship and grow their social purpose enterprises by providing the following supports:

Individual and Group Coaching

In-person Training

Peer Circles

Tools and Resources

Networking Opportunities

Onsite Childcare Services


Program Overview for the Year

We will be offering two Start programs and one Grow accelerator this year.

CSI is being responsive to the current COVID-19 situation. We would love to hear from women as to what they need right now to support their entrepreneurship journey. We encourage you to contact Mitalie Makhani, Senior Programs Manager to discuss any specific support you require at:

The Start Program 

Trying to figure out whether entrepreneurship is the right path for you but don’t know where to start? 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 8-week course is done you will have the opportunity to meet with experienced coaches who will help you continue on your social entrepreneurship journey.

Childcare services will be offered if Start takes place in person. If COVID-19 prevents us from doing so, the program will take place online.

What to Expect (Program Breakdown)

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 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 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?

By the end of the 8 weeks you will have a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship and you will have an action plan to help you take the next steps! You will 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

Weeks 1-4: Creating connections, igniting imagination, discovering and expanding your understanding of yourself and larger networks

  • WEEK 1 – Social Entrepreneurship & exploring connections
  • WEEK 2 – Uncovering stories & exploring orthodoxies
  • WEEK 3 – Exploring inner journeys & definitions of success
  • WEEK 4 – Taking an ecosystem approach & navigating systems

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

  • WEEK 5 – Learning from others & 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: Learn how to problem solve.
  • 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: Gain inner strength to connect to your values and goals.
  • Decision Making: Selecting the best course of action that will bring about authentic change.

Eligibility Requirements for Start

Are you motivated to explore entrepreneurship to create a positive change?


  • You are woman-identifying
  • You are at least 18 years old
  • You are interested in exploring social entrepreneurship
  • 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 Regent Park (585 Dundas St. E.), or online if necessary because of COVID-19.

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


  • Attend 8 in-class sessions
  • 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)

Sound like a fit? Sign up below to get notified when apps open!

Fill out my online form.

Photo credit: Matthew Burpee

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 September 2020 designed to support women-led, validation-stage social enterprises. Women entrepreneurs 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
  • 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.)

Canadian citizenship is not required to participate.

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

Fill out my online form.

Inclusion & Diversity

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.


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


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