Nov. 13, 2019

UCalgary launches first entrepreneurship training program for women

Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking strengthens university's women-led innovation ecosystem

When building ideas into reality, research shows that female entrepreneurs encounter unique barriers such as limited access to funding and capital, lack of mentorship, and implicit biases in the business and investor worlds. 

To combat these obstacles, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking at the University of Calgary has launched its newest program — WELab, an entrepreneurial training program designed to inspire and develop the next generation of women entrepreneurs, leaders, and changemakers across diverse disciplines.

Funded by the federal Research Support Fund’s Incremental Project Grant, the Hunter Hub’s WELab program will serve all female-identifying students, staff, and faculty members interested in receiving entrepreneurial training.

“The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is proud to be launching unique programming designed to equip diverse and emerging entrepreneurs with the tools to build their ideas into reality,” says Alice Reimer, interim executive director of the Hunter Hub and CDL Rockies site lead. “This is the opportune time to formalize our support of female-identifying entrepreneurs interested in contributing to Alberta’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems through providing entrepreneurial training and capacity-building.”

The program's announcement event hosted students, staff, faculty, government representatives, and partners from the local innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

'We have a limitless capacity to generate new ideas'

The event was emceed by Susan Skone, associate vice-president, research, at the University of Calgary. The announcement provided attendees an opportunity to learn more about the program’s offerings, goals, partners, contributors, and showcased the program's alignment to the University of Calgary's 2018 Academic and Research Plan and Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p.

“As one of Canada’s top research universities, we have a limitless capacity to generate new ideas to address the complex issues that our society faces today,” says Dr. Alice de Koning, academic director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.

The boldest universities link needs with great ideas, through processes that help drive innovation — just like WELab and the Hunter Hub.

"We are building this program to empower and equip participants to enter competitive STEM and entrepreneurial fields with a network of like-minded women behind and beside them.”

WELab’s 2019-2020 program offerings include entrepreneurial training workshops and networking events beginning in October.

“It’s at events like this, that I am excited for our future, because we are growing the skills of our future leaders and these leaders who will go out into the world and make change happen and change the world one idea at a time,” says Dr. Lesley Rigg, dean, Faculty of Science. “The world around us presents diverse challenges and we need diverse perspectives to build our best understandings about nature’s complexities. When we are inclusive, that brings one more crucial set of perspectives and skills, strengthening the diverse ways science can address complex issues in today’s world.”

'Indigenous women will play a vital role as leaders and changemakers'

“Through this program, Indigenous women will play a vital role as leaders and changemakers in the future of STEM, and will contribute to the diversification of Alberta’s economy in the months and years to come,” says Dr. Michael Hart, vice-provost of Indigenous engagement. “WELab’s program will build bridges for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs, and will open doors for generations to come as we envision a prosperous, Indigenized future in Alberta.”

After the announcement event, the Hunter Hub hosted the University of Calgary’s first WELab entrepreneurial training workshop, led by award-winning entrepreneur, TEDx Speaker, and STEM educator — Dr. Gina Cherkowski. The workshop gathered students from across various faculties and levels interested in learning how to build social enterprises in STEAM fields. As a program supporter, Saje Natural Wellness provided mental health tips and natural products for the workshop’s aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs.

“WELab connects emerging entrepreneurs and changemakers with the training and community connections needed to contribute to Alberta’s innovation ecosystem,” says Elise Ahenkorah, programs and partnership specialist for WELab. “It is thrilling to work in collaboration with faculty partners to proactively build inclusive entrepreneurial training opportunities for diverse innovators to unleash new perspectives and ideas that will contribute to Alberta’s innovative advantage.”

Additionally, WELab will offer a resource page to centralize resources, templates, recorded workshop sessions, and funding sources for women entrepreneurs and innovators.

To stay up to date with the Hunter Hub and WELab’s activities, please register for their newsletter.

About the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking

The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking was created in 2017 with a generous endowment from the Hunter Family Foundation as an interdisciplinary nucleus for activities that will support entrepreneurial student experiences, enable faculty to lead in innovation, and expand a growing community of entrepreneurial and innovative thinkers.

It includes a dedicated space on campus (a collision space) where students, faculty, and staff can gain and share knowledge, build networks, and turn ideas into practical solutions that can benefit society.

Research Support Fund and Incremental Project Grant

The federal government’s Research Support Fund (RSF) assists Canadian post-secondary institutions and their affiliated research hospitals and institutes with the expenses associated with managing the research funded by Tri-Council agencies (CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC). The Research Support Fund helps the university create an environment where researchers can focus on their research, collaborate with colleagues, and translate their discoveries and innovations. The Incremental Project Grant is a new stream of the RSF that focuses on innovation and commercialization activities, facilities renewal, information resources, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Read more about how UCalgary uses the Research Support Fund.