What aspiring entrepreneurs can gain from YWCA Metro Vancouver’s PowerUp program

The program is a free resource designed to help women with business ideas

Most people come up with a cool business idea at some point in their life, but they don’t necessarily have the confidence to act on it. No matter the reasons—limited resources, time constraints, etc.—unfortunately, many promising ventures live and die in the same breath.

YWCA Metro Vancouver’s new PowerUp program is a free resource that women can use to realize such ideas.

Entrepreneurial folks interested in freelancing or starting a side hustle can take the first step by learning about customers, budget and minimum viable products in PowerUp’s four-week entry-level Explore course, while those who already have a strong idea of what they want to do can consider PowerUp’s Ready stream. The Ready stream is a more in-depth course for women looking to develop a solid business plan in 10 weeks, so participants get to dive into intricate subjects like market research, branding, values and operation.

They also have opportunities to access one-on-one business advisor support, according to PowerUp’s business advisor and employer relations manager Rochelle Rezansoff: “We give feedback on their business plan and look to see how they can apply that,” she says. 

Even though many individuals join the Ready stream without a clear expectation or goal, they come out of it with an action plan for the next week, month and maybe even year. It’s a necessary step toward establishing a viable business, Rezansoff points out, and with industry experts sharing their own experiences in specific PowerUp sessions, participants are bound to leave the course inspired. 

To be eligible for the program, applicants need to be over 18 and Canadian citizens or permanent residents identifying as women. As Rezansoff puts it, PowerUp’s Ready stream has already supported 24 people since the program—which originated in YWCA Hamilton in 2019—took root in Vancouver earlier this year, and the Explore stream has helped some 39. 

It’s a matter of supporting women in the community, she adds. The program is offered virtually, so it’s supposed to help people with families or other responsibilities become more financially independent on a flexible timeline. “There’s a high cost of living here and being able to support with a business that they have interest in or a hobby or they have a skill in is really valuable,” says Rezansoff.  

At the moment, the Vancouver arm of the program is funded by YWCA Hamilton until March 2025, and Rezansoff hopes to see it live a much longer life in B.C. “We want to be able to continue to support women in the community,” she says. “Over the next year, we’re going to really focus on strengthening relationships with organizations in our current ecosystem, so ones that we’re working with and partnering with, and then also continue to strengthen relationships with organizations that hold strong pieces in our entrepreneurial space, like The Forum, WeBC, UBC, SFU. And then we want to be able to continue to reach out and connect with industry experts and support as many women as possible.”