resources for women entrepreneurs in British Columbia

Resources for Women Entrepreneurs

resources for women entrepreneurs in British Columbia

As tech explodes in the province and the number of startups grows, it’s clear that there’s never been a better time to be a woman starting a business in British Columbia!  With #BCTECH Summit 2018 on the horizon and women in tech & innovation owning a higher profile than ever before in a sector dominated primarily by men, women are making an impact on business across sectors.

It’s a great time for women entrepreneurs in BC – funding & program opportunities, support, resources!

Check this out:  From 2011 to 2016, the growth in self-employment among men in British Columbia was marginal, at only 0.9 per cent; however, the number of self-employed women in the province climbed 6.6 per cent. The increase was particularly evident among women over 55 years of age. In fact, the number of self-employed women aged 55 to 64 jumped 12.0 per cent over the five-year period, while those aged 65 and over surged 88.1 per cent.

KAST is proud of the support and programs we provide all entrepreneurs and if you’re a woman considering a startup idea or are in the initial stages of starting a business, we are sure to have a program for you!.

Take a look at our Startup Basics where we provide targeted skills coaching and action plans to those in the early stages who have an idea or are considering building a company. Startup Basics fills a gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem bringing skill progression and light-touch mentorship to help early stage entrepreneurs structure and curate their ideas.

If you’re already showing revenue growth and investment potential, KAST delivers the RevUp program where emerging and growing companies creating a new technology product receive hands-on assistance from a team of experienced Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) and “been there, done that” technology and business professionals.

Early‐stage technology entrepreneurs can also look to the BC Venture Acceleration Program, a structured venture growth program designed to guide, coach and grow ambitious early‐stage technology entrepreneurs and effectively grow their technology ventures.

If you’re looking to take charge of the technology required to develop your idea or grow your business, Ladies Learning Code provides vital programming & development education in everything from introductory HTML & CSS, to WordPress, Python, Ruby, Responsive Design, Photoshop and more.

Looking for more?  Here are some other of the more prominent groups and organizations in the province specific to women in business:

Forum for Women Entrepreneurs
Women’s Enterprise Centre
Mom CEO Academy
Young Women in Business
Minerva Foundation
Small Business BC
Entrepreneur Mom Now Vancouver 
Comox Valley Women’s Business Network 
Ladies Who Launch British Columbia
Valley Women’s Network  
Oceanside Women’s Business Network  
Kelowna Women in Business 





















Jodi Silva, CPA, CA- Grant Thornton

HERE Partner Accounting Expert Jodi Silva, CPA, CA- Grant Thornton

Jodi Silva, CPA, CA- Grant Thornton

Like all of our exceptional local service providers in the HERE program, Accountant Jodi Silva is excited for entrepreneurs embracing the challenges and rewards that come with the journey of owning their own business.

Understanding the value that the KAST HERE program brings to the startup and entrepreneur community, Jodi was happy to offer her accounting expertise and help people to realize that accounting decisions are best made early on as an integral piece of the puzzle towards success.

Accounting and bookkeeping tend to be an area of business that people muddle through until it’s too late. It’s often not an area of expertise for business owners and one that is put off, unfortunately to great expense.

Jodi brings a decade of practice since obtaining her Chartered Accountant designation.  A valuable member of the Grant Thornton (formerly Yule Anderson) team, working in the Castlegar office, she is a leader at the practice in the implementation of professional standards.  Jodi has extensive experience with assisting startups through the initial development and growth phases of their business, making her services a tremendous asset to HERE clients.

A frequent question Jodi fields with entrepreneurs is whether they should remain a Proprietorship or move to incorporating.  “There’s a lot to be considered and it’s a question often covered early on in consultation.”  Jodi discusses not only the running of the business but also lifestyle and family life, considering all facets that may impact the direction, and, ultimately, the success, of a startup or entrepreneur.

Clients are also looking for information regarding general bookkeeping, documentation, tracking, payroll as well as the oft-dreaded tax planning.  These are areas where Jodi can lend valuable guidance, ensuring more money stays in the pockets of her clients.  Her primary objective is to provide the necessary help so clients are better able to accomplish their goals.

There are those that think that accounting is a “necessary evil,” and it becomes an afterthought for many companies. But Jodi cautions against this attitude and says, “The earlier you can meet with an accountant, the better.” For instance, in considering whether to incorporate, a meeting with Jodi, even before meeting with a lawyer, can save time, money and stress down the road. This is especially true for tech startups where a solid accounting foundation and record keeping are important to be eligible for SR&ED tax credits, or if you are considering outside investors.

Though earlier is better, Jodi is emphatic in stating, “It’s never to late to meet with an accountant!”  Jodi’s expertise and understanding of tax regulations and all of the required documentation can be helpful in tweaking and improving business operations.  She’s also well versed in the tricks of the trade that can save clients a great deal of time and stress, offering the right advice to help a business run more smoothly and help keep money where it belongs: in the client’s pocket!

Jodi finds satisfaction working and living in such a close-knit community and is impressed at how supportive individuals and businesses are to work and shop locally.  This appreciation of supporting, developing and growing local business makes Jodi particularly well-suited to helping entrepreneurs working hard to find success in our Kootenay communities.

#nvbc2017 Round 2.5 – placing 17-43

KAST VAP Client Cyberdontics Advancing #nvbc2017

#nvbc2017 Round 2.5 – placing 17-43The results are in for those companies moving on to the next round of the #nvbc2017 competition! The esteemed panel of judges have evaluated the Round 2 submissions.

While there were a few ties, there are 16 ventures moving directly into Round 3, and 27 ventures pitching in Round 2.5.  KAST VAP client, Cyberdontics, was one of them!

HERE Partner HR Expert Blaise Enright

With more than 25 years of experience working in Human Resources (HR), it is such privilege to include such an accomplished professional as Blaise Enright.

With more than her share of big city experience, having worked in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, she succumbed to the lure of the Kootenays ten years ago and has been providing her unique and extensive brand of expertise to a variety of regional businesses and organizations.

Impressed with KAST’s vision for the economic development of the Kootenay communities and the very high level of support provided to Venture Accelerator Program (VAP) clients to grow their ideas and business ventures, Blaise knew this was a program she wanted to be a part of.
“I want to be a part of this exciting venture and of bringing this vision to its ultimate fruition.”

Specializing in HR policy and program development, coaching and training, conflict resolution, labour relations and human rights in the workplace, Blaise is committed to developing internal HR skills to ensure people-related business practices and processes are optimally aligned with changing business needs.
She’s also passionate about organizations keeping up-to-date and in compliance with evolving mandatory regulations pertaining to human resources management.

As an HR consultant in the HERE/VAP programs, Blaise finds that most clients are wanting to better understand how to develop comprehensive and formal Human Resources policies and procedures.
“Many HR policies are legislated and regulated by the Provincial or Federal governments – such as bullying and harassment policy and procedures, protection of personal information policy and procedures, and others.”

“General audits by governmental agencies, or audits as a result of employee complaints, eventually reveal these gaps, however, the majority of Employers recognize that it is prudent and beneficial to have these policies in place to prevent and mitigate issues and complaints and to ensure successful audits.”
Ms. Enright finds that the businesses looking for HR consultation are those without formal HR office or in-house functional responsibility. Smaller businesses who may not be at a point where they can afford an HR staff member.
However, given the general and legal responsibilities of employers relating to their employees, and the desire of employers to develop and maintain a high functioning workplace with productive and satisfied staff members, experienced assistance with the HR function is often necessary to ensure the best outcomes.

Blaise understands that knowing how, who and when to hire, and how to retain your best talent, is key to the success of any business. Staff turnover and low morale always result in stress at the workplace and at home, additional workload, as well as unanticipated financial and social costs.

“It’s been said before – people are your most valuable asset – never underestimate the value your Employees bring to your business – while at work and in the communities where they live.”

Diversity is recognized as an important element of high functioning workplaces.
“Gender, culture, generation and skills diversity are “must haves” in highly successful organizations. Along with that, are leaders who understand how to manage diversity; how to provide a respectful and collaborative workplace; how to hire and retain highly motivated talent.”

Many companies are shifting to hiring more freelancers and contractors to tap into a growing talent market, while at the same time providing career building opportunities in-house.
“My consulting experience thus far in the Kootenays has drawn attention to the fact that the day to day operations of small business organizations appear to be in great shape but that it is difficult for employers to find enough time in the day to engage in strategic planning for workforce development. “
Having help to develop HR policies and procedures to assist with recruitment and retention, and to mitigate and resolve future workplace issues, allows managers and employees to contribute at their highest levels to the success of the organization.

New Ventures BC competition

#nvbc2017 New Ventures BC Competition Round 2

After vetting each company for eligibility, #nvbc2017 has 167 startups moving into Round 2.  We are so proud of our KAST VAP clients, Cyberdontics and SMRT1 Technologies Ltd. for making it to the next round.

As a not-for-profit, New Ventures BC promotes entrepreneurship through innovation. The annual BCIC-New Ventures Competition, offers education, coaching, and $300,000+ in prizes to BC startups. They also provide training and mentorship for early-stage tech companies in Venture Acceleration Programs.


Cindy Chambers Sales & Marketing

HERE Partner Cindy Chambers, MBA & Woodbury Point

Cindy Chambers Sales & MarketingThere are any number of businesses who have come up with the great idea, product or exceptional service.  The issue for many of them, the hurdle that trips up many startups and fledgling businesses, is how to get the word out, get eyeballs, get sales!  Tackling the all-important sales and marketing demands often provide some of the greatest challenges to any business.

New HERE Program partner, Cindy Chambers is helping to bridge this gap for the program’s participating businesses.  Currently commuting between Calgary and the West Kootenay, Cindy combines part-time teaching at SAIT with her consulting and coaching business that grows to include more and more businesses here in the Kootenays.

With a strong tie to the area – Cindy’s husband grew up in Nelson – Cindy is looking forward to finally calling their property near Ainsworth Hot Springs home.  She works with clients spanning a diverse range of sectors including telecommunications, agriculture, technology, oil and gas, not-for-profit, and manufacturing, just to name a few.

The busy Sales & Marketing specialist brings a thorough background and experience which, alongside her love of collaboration, allows her the insight to understand a given company’s culture as well as quickly identify and diagnose the needs and challenges they may face.  Cindy’s sharp business acumen and her ability to grasp quickly both the strategic nature of a business as well as the nuances that make an organization unique sets the foundation for her positive contribution in a short period of time.

Specific to her Venture Accelerator and HERE program expertise, the clients Cindy works with enjoy the benefit of her willingness to listen, targeted probing and questions to accurately identify need so as to effectively distill information into actionable plans for the best outcomes.

All clients are looking for the best bang for their marketing buck.  VAP and HERE clients come to her for many of the basic marketing needs such as wordsmithing, helping with effective advertising collateral and, particularly pertaining to startup clients, translating technical “geek speak” into laymen’s terms.

Cindy identifies one of the most important facets to effective sales and marketing as being the importance of clearly understanding who the target customer is.  In this age of digital marketing, geography becomes less a factor in identifying a target audience.  Particularly with regards to tech and innovation startups, the target audience may just as easily be from around the globe as around the corner.

A true team player, Cindy is as comfortable in the board room as in the trenches.  Strategically, she excels at providing clarity of direction, identifying competitive advantage, and facilitating discussions that move organizations in a profitable direction.  Tactically, it isn’t uncommon to find Cindy working a trade show booth, carting boxes, or performing any of the myriad of tasks that are necessary for organizations to successfully market themselves.

Cindy has honed her management and leadership capabilities to a high level of performance.  Career successes include launching new products that showed immediate financial success, eliminating under-performing products from portfolios, and successfully leading cross-functional, multi-cultural, multi-time zone teams to launch new products on time and on budget.

Cindy has been responsible for fund-raising in order to secure on-going private financial support for a non-profit organization, resulting in donated funds that doubled the operating budget.  She has served as the volunteer chair on two separate non-profit boards,  leading the strategic planning process and building strong board-staff collaboration.

Cindy has a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Calgary, and has spent a good portion of her career leveraging technology to implement marketing plans.   She has spent several years teaching business and marketing classes at the post-secondary level (Mount Royal University, University of Phoenix, SAIT), as well as providing marketing and strategic business consulting services across numerous industries.  She continues to take professional development workshops and courses in the areas of fund development, board capacity, and marketing and sales leadership.

Cindy Chambers-Woodbury Point Sales & Marketing

Read more about Cindy and the HERE Program.