Community over competition.
That’s the concept that drives Infinity Womenpreneurs, a collective business community started in 2021 and created by participants of DIVERSEcity’s CWB Business Incubator for Women Makers and Creators.
Program Coordinator Florence Kao says this collaborative spirit is palpable among the business owners – all intercultural women – even in the all-virtual environment that was made necessary due to the pandemic.
“I was really taken with how powerful the women feel, the energy they both give and receive from learning from each other, rather than being competitors,” says Kao. “They are so humble and respect each other. They are so open to share what they know – and what they don’t.”
DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society is a Surrey-based non-profit organization that helps newcomers and other diverse communities build their lives in Canada. The Incubator program was launched earlier this year and, with it, Infinity Womenpreneurs, which currently operates as an online marketplace.
The goal of the Incubator program – which Kao says grew out of a small cooking and sewing group that DIVERSEcity started three years ago to support vulnerable newcomers – is to turn creative talents into entrepreneurship. For about 20 weeks, participants explore and develop business opportunities, get one-on-one support from self-employment specialists, learn business basics and operations, test out their product or idea in the marketplace, and build a peer network with other women entrepreneurs.
The last stage of the Incubator program is launching a business, either independently or as part of the Infinity Womenpreneurs model. Currently over 20 businesses are part of the collective, offering products and services that range from artwork and design, marketing, eateries and catering, jewelry, clothing, poetry and stories, and education.
"Removing barriers in a manner that creates equal opportunities for all Canadians to achieve success is incredibly important, now more than ever," says Dylan Watson, CWB Vice President and Market Lead, West Fraser Valley District. "Specifically, this program is working with intercultural women, turning their skills into sustainable business opportunities. These efforts are creating very real and positive impacts in our community."
Each business is as unique as the woman behind it, says Kao, who herself was recently recognized with an award of excellence in the ‘Hero’ category from the Community Social Services Employers' Association of BC.
“Through a collective operation they find individual achievement,” she says. “Infinity Womenpreneurs is a co-marketing platform, but business owners keep their own brand. So, while they’re still achieving this collective success, they’re also encouraging and nurturing their own individual achievement. They don’t need to compete with others. Instead, we find they’re motivating others and motivating themselves.”
Only in its first year, Infinity Womenpreneurs is still evolving as the participants themselves evolve, says Kao. But she says knowing that DIVERSEcity is always behind the scenes to help them when they need it – such as speaking to vendors or other market owners on their behalf – creates a space where they feel safe to ask questions, seek guidance, and celebrate their own successes and those of others. All while maintaining their independence within a supportive structure and gaining a sense of contribution and belonging in their new home country.
“They become friends. That’s not something that I as a coordinator can do,” says Kao. “They share in their ideas, in their success, in their support. To them, there truly is a feeling that community is better than my own success.”
Learn more about the CWB Business Incubator for Women Makers and Creators and upcoming sessions here.