What is a Chamber of Commerce?
A Chamber of Commerce is an organization with a goal to further the interests of the businesses they serve and to advocate at all levels of government for the interests of their members.
CanWCC is the first – and only – Chamber of Commerce for women-identified and non-binary business owners in Canada. (Before 2017, we didn’t exist, so there’s a lot of catching up to do). As a chamber of commerce, we represent your needs with the government. Our position and title as a chamber gives us access to people who impact change.
We’re working hard to make the change you deserve now- not in 100 years.
Why does Canada need a Women's Chamber of Commerce?
Women and non-binary entrepreneurs, founders, and CEOs deserve the same opportunity to reach their full economic potential as men and people who traditionally hold power do. While there is a Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we know not everyone feels welcome, seen, or heard there. CanWCC is here to prioritize the needs of women and non-binary entrepreneurs. Not make them an afterthought.
In 2015, CanWCC founder Nancy Wilson left the security of the corporate world behind in favour of the freedom, flexibility and possibility of entrepreneurship.
She set out as a freelance accountant serving women-owned businesses – but discovered quickly that being a woman entrepreneur in Canada came with some significant challenges and barriers.
She heard her own frustrations reflected back to her time and again through her clients – and couldn’t help but notice that they didn’t seem to translate to the male ‘experience’ of entrepreneurship.
At the same time, Nancy was looking for community – but found the vast majority of networking groups targeted to women were lacking in the substance she was looking for - real tools for growth and valuable connections that were useful for her business.
So she decided to do something about it – and, in 2018, The Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC) was born.
We’re building networks of women on the ground growing successful businesses.
We give you a chance to participate and contribute your voice and experience to building a new strategy for women in business.
We take this strategy as an advocacy agenda to policy makers and demand that they address systemic challenges to create lasting change.
Resources, discounts, and referrals from our partner network to achieve your goals.
Though we offer a ton of benefits you won’t find anywhere else what makes us unique is our ability to effectively advocate on our members’ behalf as the first – and only – Chamber of Commerce for women business owners in Canada.
We have a ‘come as you are’ philosophy
We believe that women-identified entrepreneurs and business owners are competent, innovative, and ambitious.
You do not need to be fixed - the system does.
Our team works every day to connect our members with the information and resources they need to succeed – on their terms – while advocating for the removal of systemic barriers to growth.
CanWCC is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE).
We value: Community & Connection
We believe that business and community interests are not mutually exclusive. Just as businesses rely on community resources, they also have a responsibility to give back to the communities that support them.
We strive to promote, elevate and nurture cultural values, wellness and businesses that sustain both our communities and ourselves.
We believe in providing inclusive access to CanWCC’s programs, services, and resources and value the work done by all persons involved with the organization, both tangible and intangible.
We recognize the diverse experiences of newly immigrated, racialized, Indigenous, LGBTQIA2S+, gender non-binary, francophone, Northern and rural, low-income, young and senior women, and women with disabilities. We seek input from these communities to ensure programs, services, and resources provide equitable support to all women in business.
We value: Collaboration
We believe that change is better made in collaboration with others.
We choose to focus on complementing, rather than competing with, services, resources, and organizations in Canada’s business ecosystem. We value mutual benefit for all parties in all partnerships with members, sponsors, partner organizations, governments and the public.
We believe that compassion and empathy are the building blocks of connection and value the humanity, autonomy, and independence of all individuals.
Honestly, inclusion, and openness are essential to creating connection, and we strive to live these values in all interactions with members, sponsors, partners, governments and the public.
We value transparency and openness in our partnerships with members, sponsors, partner organizations, government and the public, and strive to be transparent in all communications. All advocacy, policies, programs, resources, and services are non-partisan.
We value: Change
We value agility, adaptability, iteration and self-efficacy in operations, advocacy, policies, programs, resources, services, and in all relationships with members, sponsors, partner organizations, governments and the public.
We strive to ensure CanWCC remains responsive to changes in the Canadian business ecosystem and member-voiced concerns. We will remain open to change and relevant to our membership for the lifetime of the organization.
Director of Operations & Stakeholder Relations
Catherine is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, consultant, and writer. In her role at CanWCC, she works to support women and nonbinary business owners with advocacy, education, and community.
A graduate of The University of Western Ontario Master of Arts program, she started her career in marketing in the entertainment industry before finding her home in management. Catherine has been a successful retail store manager, sales manager, hiring manager, and training manager. This wide experience plus her talent for organizing with excellent "bedside manner" is what makes Catherine such an effective leader and fractional COO.
Stemming from a desire to try a new yoga class, and frustrated by how long it took to find the right class in the right place at the right time, she was inspired to build FitIn, a marketplace-enterprise software solution for the fitness and wellness industry. A social enterprise, FitIn's mission is to improve the health of ALL Canadians, especially those with barriers or underserved needs.
Catherine is a long-time lover of running, has competed in kettlebell competitions as well marathons, and has her Grade 4 sash in Wing Chun Kung Fu. She is currently neck-deep in the pickleball phenomenon and loving every minute of it.
Director of Community Growth & Engagement
A natural relationship builder, Jenna thrives on connecting people around shared values.
Jenna has a thirst for knowledge. She has a keen interest in policy developments, strategies for building social movements and the more macroeconomic, political and social conditions for the overlapping crises we find ourselves in.
Jenna is an engaging writer and communicator. She has deep convictions, especially around women’s economic resilience, intersectional feminism and Indigenous communities' rights - and voices these convictions, even when it would be easier to stay silent.
Jenna lives and works on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and home to the Métis Nation. She recognizes that her water originates in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation territory.
Advocacy & Campaign Coordinator
Joëlle Kabisoso is an award winning community engagement coordinator, workshop facilitator and social entrepreneur. She is a graduate of Brescia University College, where she holds a BA in family studies with a certificate in family mediation from York University.
She is the founder and executive director of Sisters in Sync, a non-profit with a mission to bridge the gap between the lived experience of Black trauma survivors. She specializes in gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
For her advocacy work, Joëlle has been the recipient of many awards such as Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada, 2022 L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth, and 2021 YWCA Trailblazer award amongst more. She hopes to continue to create spaces for Black trauma survivors to have their voices heard and to transform policies that currently impede on one's fair and equitable access to justice.
Karen Schulman Dupuis
Director of Strategic Planning & Impact
A 2022 DMZ Women of the Year Nominee, and 2020 and 2021 nominee for the RBC Women of Influence Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, KSD (aka Karen Schulman Dupuis, she/her) is routinely called a force of nature. She is a speaker, writer, designer, teacher, mentor, a student of systems thinking & social innovation, and a shift disturber. Karen believes that diversity and inclusion is a growth strategy and a leadership competency.
Karen is an interdisciplinary senior leader that works at the intersection of strategy, operations, and marketing. She's a technologist who over 20 years has held roles with startups and enterprises from Director to VP Strategy and Marketing, to COO. She is an award-winning communicator, and brings extensive experience in digital and social media, sales, business development, marketing and communications, product design and management, education, operations, process and system design, with a human-centered approach.
She is the principal consultant at Social Design, the recent Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the SVX Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) GROW program, and a mentor with the Elizabeth Fry Society/RISE Canada My Startup program. She has mentored startups through TechStars Toronto, the Roundhouse Accelerator, and Futurpreneur Canada.
Karen recently graduated magna cum laude in her Master of Arts in Leadership through Royal Roads University, where her capstone research titled Women Disrupted: Centering Women’s Voices for Social Change examined the question of how women aged 40-64 respond to having their careers disrupted, and how the economic development ecosystem (across all levels of government) could respond to help women regain their financial stability.
Advocacy Communications Officer
Maricruz Vazquez is a social media and public relations specialist based in Toronto. Her diverse experience encompasses various industries including fashion, technology, beauty and charities.
Upon her graduation in Fashion Communications, she pursued work with national and international brands based in Canada. As her portfolio of clients continued to grow, she prioritized working with various other companies that also aligned with her strong sense of ethics and values. She is now part of the CanWCC team as the Marketing Coordinator and is focused on amplifying and nurturing this special community via communications.
On a more personal note, Maricruz is passionate about animal welfare, travel and food. In her free time, she can be found discovering a new store or shop with a coffee cup in hand and her 13-year-old border collie named Kiwi, not far behind.
Founder & CEO
Nancy Wilson is the Founder, CEO and chief rabble-rouser here at CanWCC.
In addition, Nancy is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) with more than a decade of accounting experience in various corporate roles. She also owned and operated an accounting and business advisory firm serving women business owners and entrepreneurs.
Nancy launched CanWCC in January 2018 out of frustration regarding the barriers, lack of resources and difficulty finding connection she experienced as a business owner – and has been working ever since to create a powerful network of women through which to drive change and create equality in Canadian business.
Nancy is a driven and accomplished feminist entrepreneur who loves learning new things, meeting new people, discussing the philosophical underpinnings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and watching horror movies.
Founding Team Member (Currently on Sabbatical)
Paula is a social media and events manager who brings an eclectic mix of start-up, marketing, B2C, film, and television experience to her role of community manager at CanWCC.
Paula graduated from Ryerson University in 2007 with a BFA in film studies. She worked on projects for National Geographic, CBC, CTV, MTV and more, before finding her sweet spot in social media management.
A member of the CanWCC leadership team from day one, she built our social media and community strategy from the ground up. Paula expertly uses a variety of strategies and platforms to propel engagement and community growth and is a critical member of our leadership team because of it.
In her spare time, Paula takes quirky and colourful photos using Playmobil toys and posts them on her Instagram account, @PCLFletcher.