October 22, 2021

WEConnect International Launches its “We Mean Business” Readiness Assessment for Women-Owned Businesses supported by Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada

TORONTO, October 21, 2021—WEConnect International announced the launch of its new Business Readiness Assessment at the 2021 Canada Annual Conference. Built with the support of member buyers, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC), the Business Readiness Assessment is a game changing tool helping the three organizations pursue a shared mission of supporting women entrepreneurs throughout Canada. 

Connecting women-owned businesses to decision makers in procurement begins with identifying high quality suppliers that are business ready. The mandate of BDC and EDC to support Canadian entrepreneurs, combined with their supplier diversity and inclusion program goals highlighted the need to develop a more thorough understanding of the readiness of potential women-owned suppliers in Canada. The desire to have a more comprehensive understanding of the business readiness level is one shared by WEConnect International – both in aggregate across the network and at the individual business level to help measure the impact from programming, as well as, to help the women business owners identify the right programs and tools to increase their access to opportunities.  

The development of the Business Readiness Assessment was led by WEConnect International’s Global Training Manager, Andrea Lizarzaburu, whose team worked closely with several representatives from the procurement departments of current member buyer organizations. In addition, commercial business and entrepreneurship leaders from both BDC and EDC contributed knowledge and expertise throughout the many iterations of the assessment. “It was critical to include the perspectives of those in the field, who interact with the suppliers on a daily basis and have vast experience on what it means to be ready to enter large supply chains.” said Andrea Lizarzaburu. “I am confident that the assessment we are launching reflects the right business components that the business owner would need to appropriately identify where their business is rated on a 4-step maturity level continuum.” 

The Business Readiness Assessment evaluates five key areas of business: strategic, commercial, operational, financial and people. Through a number of questions and scenarios, the respondents are asked to provide an estimate of their organizations’ position in these key areas. Following the completion of the assessment, each business owner receives an overall score and is directed to WEConnect International for information and resources that are appropriately aligned to address their general business readiness gaps. 

“I am thrilled to launch the Business Readiness Assessment as a pilot in Canada with the support of two long term supporters, BDC and EDC.” said Stephanie Fontaine, Regional Director at WEConnect International. “The learnings in this market will give our team significant insight before we launch the assessment globally in 2022.” 

In addition to gaining feedback on the assessment itself, the aggregate data collected in Canada will begin to demonstrate the general business maturity level of women-owned businesses in the country. The preliminary findings will be of interest to those entities working on policy as well as those supporting women entrepreneurs, and WEConnect International is intending to pursue more comprehensive ecosystem mapping efforts with key funders in 2022 and 2023. 

 “Helping women entrepreneurs build thriving businesses is essential to our economic recovery and a healthy economy,” said Laura Didyk, Vice President, Client Diversity, BDC. “Access to markets and into corporate supply chains is an important step to help women business owners grow and be successful. This tool simplifies those steps by providing clear advice and tangible actions based on where a women’s business is today and where she hopes it will be tomorrow.” 

Whether the business owners seek to grow domestically or through global supply chains, they know they need to be ready. What is often lesser known are the steps to advance readiness and this new assessment will provide a roadmap to help plan for the journey ahead.   

“Selling to international buyers is an accelerant for growth and, at EDC, we’re focused on helping women-owned businesses leverage this strategy to grow faster and become more competitive and profitable over the long term,” said Jennifer Cooke, EDC’s Director for Inclusive Trade. “The first step is knowing where you’re at in your business journey, which is why this tool is so valuable as it will help owners identify what steps they need to take to succeed within global supply chains and to reach new markets.” 

Over the next few months, WEConnect International, BDC and EDC will actively promote the Business Readiness Assessment in their respective networks and encourage all women entrepreneurs in Canada to complete it to gain this critical objective measure of where they are on the business maturity continuum, as well as access resources to progress their readiness. On November 19, 2021, at 1 p.m., the organizations will deliver a “We Mean Business” webinar where women business owners will have the opportunity to learn more about the assessment and the resources. Women business owners or their representatives are encouraged to register here: https://weconnectinternational.org/events/we-mean-business/ and to take the assessment https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/bizreadiness 


About WEConnect International  

WEConnect International is a member-led, global non-profit that brings motivated, large corporate, multilateral and government buyers together with qualified women-owned suppliers around the world. It works with over 130 multinational buyers, with over $1 trillion in annual purchasing power combined, that have committed to sourcing more products and services from women-owned businesses based in over 130 countries. WEConnect International identifies, educates, registers and certifies women’s business enterprises based outside of the U.S. that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. For more information, visit www.WEConnectInternational.org 

For more information or media interviews, please contact, Rebecca Pearson, Chief Marketing Officer, at rpearson@weconnectinternational.org or +1-703-297-5113.  

For corporate membership, contact Michael Tobolski, VP of Member Development, mtobolski@weconnectinternational.org, or online at https://weconnectinternational.org/en/corporate-membership/membership-opportunities. 

For details on Registering your Women-Owned Business or becoming a certified Women Business Enterprise, please contact Melanie Oliver at registration@weconnectinternational.org.    


About Export Development Canada  

Export Development Canada (EDC) is a financial Crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian companies of all sizes succeed on the world stage. As international risk experts, we equip Canadian companies with the tools they need – the trade knowledge, financing solutions, equity, insurance, and connections – to grow their business with confidence. Underlying all our support is a commitment to sustainable and responsible business. To help Canadian businesses facing extreme financial challenges brought on by the global response to COVID-19, the Government of Canada has expanded EDC’s domestic capabilities until December 31, 2021. This broader mandate will enable EDC to expand its support to companies focused domestically. For more information and to learn how we can help your company, call us at 1-800-229-0575 or visit www.edc.ca. 

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About Business Development Bank of Canada 

BDC is the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs. It provides access to financing, as well as advisory services to help Canadian businesses grow and succeed. Its investment arm, BDC Capital, offers a wide range of risk capital solutions. For more than 75 years, BDC’s only purpose has been to support entrepreneurs in all industries and at all stages of growth. For more information and to consult more than 1,000 free tools, articles and entrepreneurs’ stories, visit bdc.ca.