Micro-Loan Pilot Program for Cape Breton – Unama’ki Female Entrepreneurs

UPDATE: The Micro-Loan Program for female entrepreneurs in Cape Breton – Unama’ki launched in January 2020 has concluded. If you have any questions or wish to express interest in potential similar programs in the future, please contact Jenna Lahey, Inclusive Innovation Officer, at jenna@capebretonpartnership.com.

New businesses create new employment opportunities; and both directly benefit the Cape Breton – Unama’ki economy.  That is why the Cape Breton Partnership and Sydney Credit Union have joined together to offer a new and exciting pilot micro-lending program for female entrepreneurs.

Under the Micro-Loan Pilot Program, female entrepreneurs from across Cape Breton – Unama’ki will be eligible to apply for a loan of up to $10,000.  The pilot began today, January 16, 2020 and will run for three months or until the program funds of $100,000 provided by the Sydney Credit Union are allocated.  

“Sydney Credit Union’s mission and vision is to support the economic well-being and growth of our community,” says Carol Ripley, Chief Executive Officer, Sydney Credit Union.  “We have worked closely with the Cape Breton Partnership to develop the Micro-Loan Program for Women and believe what we have created will not only support women entrepreneurs within our community, but our island economy as a whole.“

All financial aspects of the loan will be managed by the Sydney Credit Union, however the Cape Breton Partnership will provide access to mentors, programs and additional resources the entrepreneurs may require such as business planning, support for export, immigration and economic research. Participants will submit monthly status reports to the Cape Breton Partnership. 

“As Cape Breton – Unama’ki’s economic development organization, we have consistently heard that access to funding was a significant barrier to our female entrepreneurs,” says Carla Arsenault, Cape Breton Partnership President & CEO. “By partnering with the Sydney Credit Union on this unique pilot program, our hope is to reduce or remove this barrier for women while directly contributing to the Island’s entrepreneurial success.”

The Cape Breton Partnership and Sydney Credit Union will work together to offer micro-loans while providing support and guidance to female entrepreneurs, using an approach based on Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunity  (AIRO – http://ruralopportunity.com/ ). Recent research conducted on female and Indigenous female entrepreneurs in Cape Breton by both the Cape Breton Partnership and Cape Breton Voices indicated that access to funding is one of the greatest challenges Cape Breton women face.

“As a female entrepreneur in Cape Breton, I can say firsthand that a micro-lending program is addressing an existing gap for entrepreneurs on the Island, ” says Tara Milburn, Ethical Swag Founder. “Opportunities don’t happen, we create them. Thanks to the efforts of the Credit Union and the CB Partnership, I truly believe this program will have a huge impact in the success of our region.”

Each application will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and will use the Sydney Credit Union’s existing adjudication and due diligence process in making decisions to grant loans. The loans would be at a non-compounding rate of three per cent, with zero percent interest for the first six months. Once completed, the Cape Breton Partnership and Sydney Credit Union will assess the success of the program to determine its future.