Rural Women Entrepreneurs in Technology (RWEIT) was an Alberta-wide program, led by EDL and powered by Alberta Innovates supporting rural women entrepreneurs, especially under-represented entrepreneurs. One of the under-represented groups in Alberta include female Indigenous entrepreneurs and business owners. A campaign to address their needs for success was developed to introduce them to new technology, systems and business solutions while offering a safe space to gather (digitally) and discuss being an Indigenous entrepreneur in an ever-changing world.
RWEIT promoted the building of collaborative partnerships with over 180 ecosystem organizations and service providers across Alberta to ensure self-identified women and non-binary entrepreneurs have equitable access to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, specifically in technology. Indigenous partnerships were essential to RWEIT’s success in supporting Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs.
The success of the campaign was ultimately determined by the collaboration of organizations throughout the province. The RWEIT team based out of Lethbridge and a division of Economic Development Lethbridge (EDL) led in creating and co-ordinating marketing materials and messaging to be shared province wide. The campaign incorporated the use of digital marketing through ad campaigns targeted to highly populated Indigenous areas of the province combined with more traditional marketing methods such as radio campaigns with Windspeaker radio and Siksika Radio. These 2 radio campaigns reached 85 communities across the province.
Other marketing pieces included email specific campaigns to Indigenous partners and businesses throughout the province and utilizing an Indigenous influencer to help share the message of the RWEIT services to the Indigenous community. This Indigenous influencer hosted a 4-part workshop portraying her entrepreneurial journey as a world-renowned Indigenous artist. Posters were also created to create awareness about an Indigenous specific offering and were shared by 10 Indigenous partner groups in their community resource offices.
Outcomes for the campaign were hugely successful. The Indigenous 6 pack app development course (how to create and launch an app) was attended by 20 Indigenous women, with another 5 on a waiting list. The aforementioned influencer workshop was attended by 62 participants. Social media engagement was high with 588,132 impressions on Indigenous specific Facebook ads and an Indigenous specific resources tab was added to the RWEIT’s website.
Due to demand the hiring of a female Metis Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Navigator was needed to meet demands from the Indigenous community. This person was brought on as a contract position and conducted 16 one-on-one business coaching and guidance sessions with women led Indigenous businesses.
Over the 13 months the RWEIT program was running (June 2022 – July 2023) it had the opportunity to engage with over 215 individual self-identified Indigenous women entrepreneurs through workshops and coaching sessions in Alberta.
Although funding for the RWEIT program ended in July 2023, EDL has committed to keep the resources pages active on the RWEIT website until the end of the year and then move them to the resource page of the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (RINSA) webpage. EDL continues to work with Indigenous led businesses and Indigenous resource organizations to provide support and mentorship for those who have questions or needs in the entrepreneurial space.