New program supports underrepresented women in food business

By Steve Gow

A unique program in partnership with Mount Saint Vincent University is aimed at giving underrepresented women a chance to advance their home-based food businesses.

The Centre of Women in Business’s Specialized Program in Cooking Entrepreneurship (or SPICE, for short) was designed by Natalie Frederick-Wilson.

Recently honoured with a 2023 Invisible Champion Award from the Bhayana Family Foundation, Frederick-Wilson designed the program after recognizing a gap during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the height of restrictions, the CWB started getting calls from women operating food businesses on Facebook or Kijiji questioning why they weren’t eligible for government relief funding such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

“As they started talking to us about their businesses, we had to unfortunately say you don’t actually have a business,” recalls Frederick-Wilson. “You have been operating an enterprise that is not licensed or insured or regulated in anyway and, as a result. you wouldn’t be able to capitalize on any of the programs that exist to help businesses.”

In addition, she recognized many of the women were newcomers or underrepresented members of the community. As such, she felt the drive to provide an empowerment opportunity for these would-be entrepreneurs to create their own financial stability using their skills as cooks.

“If they are not licensed businesses, (they) can’t sell at farmers markets, they can’t sell at events, they can’t go to pop-up festivals,” explains Frederick-Wilson.

“That’s how we judge success – these women moving from their kitchen table where they are not sure if they are making money to (obtaining) the ability to make real revenue and real profit and be able to seek out opportunities because they are not tied to the fact that they are operating an unregulated food business from their table or home kitchen.”

She says the free eight-week course offers education and support with registration, insurance, and many other aspects some start-up entrepreneurs may not fully understand.

The plan certainly worked. Last spring’s pilot program was so successful, Frederick-Wilson says interest in the upcoming fall program has been in high demand, noting there is even a waitlist just to apply.

Once the full list of applications are reviewed, they expect to choose this year’s lucky recipients by the end of August.

Due to the demand, the SPICE program will also extend a new “mini SPICE” workshop for those who wish to access the key learnings outside of the full course.

For more information, visit the website.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today