York innovation hub receives $3M to support women entrepreneurs

Group of diverse women entrepreneurs

ELLA, run by the University’s innovation hub, YSpace, has received $3 million from a federal government program called Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) to expand support for woman entrepreneurs across the country.

ELLA was created in 2019, with previous funding from WES, as an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs working in areas like tech, retail and food and beverage. It is Ontario’s first accelerator for women-led products and service-based businesses with programs designed to support women entrepreneurs in all stages of the business development process.

Since its creation, ELLA’s programming has supported 167 women, and its ventures have generated $15.9 million in revenue, raised $7.6 million in funding and created 121 jobs. It has also been a critical tool to boost women entrepreneurs during a difficult time. “According to the latest Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) report, service-based women-owned businesses were hit the hardest throughout the pandemic,” said David Kwok, associate director of entrepreneurship at YSpace, adding that ELLA was created to address such challenges.

Until now, ELLA’s focus has been provincial, but the new $3-million funding from WES – announced on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023 – will enable ELLA to expand its services across Canada. ELLA will now have three national programs supporting women across the country, which include:

  • ELLA Express: A self-paced program designed to equip participants with the knowledge and tools to launch or grow their business;
  • ELLA Ascend: Support early-stage businesses in establishing their business infrastructures and setting up to scale; and
  • ELLA Altitude: Support national and international scale-ups with access to mentorship and our proven fractional executive model to overcome major business challenges.

These programs and the funding initiative aim to provide access to women entrepreneurs in areas such as financing, resources, networks and more to support their businesses and help remove systemic barriers.

YSpace ELLA parcipants
ELLA program participants with YSpace staff

ELLA has a track record of supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs and those who may not traditionally have access to similar programming. 77 per cent of the women supported by ELLA are at the intersection of more than one underrepresented group, and 66 per cent of participants indicate that their involvement in ELLA was the first time they received support from an entrepreneurial program. This funding opportunity with WES enables ELLA to provide more opportunities for women-owned ventures that were previously not supported by existing programming to succeed in the economy.

“This funding from Innovation, Science & Economic Development Canada and the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy is not only a signal of confidence in the work we’ve done in the past three years, but the work that we can do to better support the community around us and create greater access,” said Assistant Vice-President of Innovation and Research Partnerships Jennifer MacLean.

“We are very excited to work with and create impact for women-identifying entrepreneurs across Canada over the next two years,” said Marlina Ramchandran, ELLA’s entrepreneurship manager. “We aim to exponentially increase the capacity of skills training by organizing topic specific workshops and foster an inclusive community of women-identifying startups by creating access to mentors and subject matter experts.”

Learn more about YSpace and ELLA here.