Federal government invests in women and connects rural N.S. communities with resources, opportunities via IGNITE Atlantic

If you are a woman with a business idea in Central Nova, Sean Fraser wants to introduce you to IGNITE Atlantic. In 2021, only 16 per cent of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are owned by women, and the Government of Canada is working to change that.

“Our government is proud to be a funding partner for IGNITE Atlantic, a rural innovation hub that brings people together to explore how to make change possible in rural communities. IGNITE Atlantic believes in empowering women leaders, and fostering connections, to create meaningful opportunities, for them and all of Nova Scotia,” says Fraser.

Three friends sit at a wooden table playing Wintergaden Game. The game board is 3D with action cards sticking out of the board.

The hub, located at 352 East River Road in New Glasgow, offers start up services like growth coaching, legal support and accounting support, and provides online training courses, workshops, events and access to printing services and a studio. Anyone can reach out through their website or social media platforms and talk to a member of their team.

“We’re bringing people together to create a culture of innovation by engaging communities to find solutions and create opportunities throughout rural Nova Scotia,” explains Jen MacKinnon, Regional Manager with IGNITE Atlantic. “Every situation starts with a conversation, and depending on what someone needs, it might lead to another conversation, or a referral to a different resource.”

Local entrepreneur Rebecca Atkinson supports fellow businesswomen and the community through her company Sober Island Brewing. The brewery has a beer garden and taproom where they feature local music, highlight local vendors through pop-up shops and collaborate on events with other businesses, like brewer’s dinners and bonfires.

She adds that these collaborations are a big part of being a woman entrepreneur in a small town. “We help each other out, lift each other up and provide a shoulder to lean on, or a listening ear.”

Fraser says creating an environment that fosters a strong local economy – especially one that is women-led – was always a key priority of his, since first becoming a member of parliament in 2015. “The full and equal participation of women in the economy is not just the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do.”

The Government of Canada supports a variety of initiatives through their Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), a more than $6-billion investment that aims to increase women-owned businesses' access to the financing, talent, networks and expertise they need to start up, scale up and access new markets.

And it seems to be working, according to Jen MacKinnon. “The tides are changing, and women are certainly leading the way in a number of great business opportunities, especially in rural Nova Scotia communities.”