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Toolkit for Canadian women doing business with the European Union

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Why should you consider the EU market if you are not already selling your products or services there? How can Canadian women entrepreneurs take advantage of the benefits offered by Canada's free trade agreement with the EU, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)? What are the main challenges you will have to face as a women exporter? How can you leverage existing networks and resources to prevent and overcome these challenges?

To answer these questions, one of the founders of the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) in Toronto, Susan Baka, compiled advice and on-the-ground intelligence from the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) network and Canadian women entrepreneurs who are successfully exporting to the EU. You will find below a wealth of information, insights and tips:

It is important to keep in mind that consumers' demands and business opportunities can vary considerably from one Member State to another and across sectors. Do not hesitate to reach out to our team of Trade Commissioners in the EU for tailored-made advice and information on your product or service.

For an overview of the EU and relevant EU legislation affecting exports to Europe, please consult Exporting to the EU – A guide for Canadian business. This guide provides certain key information needed to access the EU market and answers some of the questions most frequently asked by Canadian exporters about topics such as conformity—or CE—marking, customs duties, intellectual property rights, data protection, and environmental regulations.

Checklist for women exporters

In this toolkit, you will find resources and practical advice on how to approach and implement this checklist designed specifically for women who want to expand their business to the EU:

  1. Assess your company's export readiness: take the TCS quiz, check your score and be sure that you are ready
  2. Make sure you have sufficient financial resources: check funding sources at federal and your provincial level, starting with those dedicated to women-owned businesses, as suggested in the Annex
  3. Research your target market(s): determine whether your product or service can find a worthwhile market in the EU taking into account the variety of languages, consumer preferences, market trends and cultures
  4. Travel (virtually) to the EU: trade shows, conferences or business networking sessions offer excellent opportunities to explore market potential and connect with useful contacts, especially in the EU which is often defined as a "relationship" market
  5. Leverage existing women's networks both in Canada and the EU: check out the extensive list of women-led organizations in the Appendix
  6. Identify CETA provisions that can benefit your business: tariff elimination on 98% of products, improved market access for services providers, enhanced possibilities for labour mobility, streamlined processes for customs etc.
  7. Understand the EU regulatory requirements applicable to your product/service and protect your intellectual property: don't forget to explore the TCS guides for exporting goods and services to the EU
  8. Cover your back: find ways to reduce the financial risks of international trade, using insurance programs offered by Export Development Canada (EDC) for example.


This guide:

  • provides general information to readers who take full responsibility for its use
  • is not a substitute for professional or legal advice
  • The Government of Canada:
    • is not responsible for errors or omissions or for results arising from the use of the information in this guide
    • has not verified the contents of third-party websites
    • does not endorse, warrant, promote or recommend any services or products that may be provided or accessed through third-party websites or any person or body that may provide them
    • has not issued or caused to be issued any advertisements that may appear on these websites

Unless expressed otherwise, all references to "$" are references to Canadian dollars.

Top 3 reasons why the EU market is relevant for women exporters

(1) Access to an attractive market for Canadian women exporters

Canadian women-owned businesses already export to Europe in higher rates than men. In 2017, 37% of 100% women-controlled exporters sold products and services to Europe vs. only 25% of 100% men-controlled exporters.

This is because Canadian women rightly identified the EU as an attractive market. With more than 446 million consumers and $24 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP), the EU is the world's largest trading bloc and Canada's most important trading partner after the United States (US). It is also an integrated single market with common rules, liberalized travel across national borders, and a common currency shared by 19 countries.

The EU market offers numerous business opportunities, including in the services sector and certain niche sectors such as food or health where Canadian women entrepreneurs have many strengths.

(2) Benefit from preferential access to the EU market under CETA

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a free trade agreement between the EU and Canada that entered into force in 2017. It gives Canadian exporter's preferential access to the EU, thus opening up business opportunities in 27 EU countries.

CETA covers virtually all sectors of Canada-EU trade, most notably through:

With a few exceptions, CETA allows Canadian firms to provide services in EU the same way as those from the EU. It also simplifies labour mobility provisions, which is particularly important for service firms whose people often need to travel and work temporarily in the EU. These are key benefits since the majority of women-owned businesses are service providers.

There is already evidence that women are specifically benefiting from CETA. In the year following its entry into force (2018), the Trade Commissioner Service in Europe has seen an increase of 50% of its services to women-owned enterprises and a doubling of its successes facilitated for women-owned enterprises.

(3) Leverage well-established networks to access the EU market

Statistics and numbers aside, doing business with the EU is a natural choice because Canada and the EU have a comparable set of values, and our societies, philosophies, and policies – including those related to gender – are increasingly interlinked.

There are many similar women's and other business o#rganizations in the EU to connect with to make contacts and find potential partners. There is also a great deal of support from the Canadian government to help firms leverage the EU market and CETA through activities like women's trade missions organized by Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) and through resources like the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service). See the list of key contacts and resources

Labour mobility under CETA

CETA facilitates the entry of Canadian highly skilled professionals and business people into the EU's market for temporary stay and for longer periods of time. Labour mobility is regulated in terms of who can stay, how long and depending on the type of activity a person intends to carry out.

First, you will need to determine whether you fall within one of the categories of business travelers that can benefit from the labour mobility provisions under CETA, namely:

  1. contractual services suppliers and independent professionals travelling to the EU to complete a service contract in one of the sectors listed in Annex 10-E that includes medical and dental services, veterinary services or higher education services
  2. key personnel, which includes personnel transferred between affiliated offices in Canada and the EU (so-called 'intra-corporate transferees'), investors and business visitors for investment purposes
  3. short-term business visitors travelling for one of the activities listed in Annex 10-D of CETA, including meetings and consultations, training seminars, commercial transactions, market research or trade fairs and exhibitions.

Secondly, you will have to check the application procedure and the maximum length of stay applicable to your category of business travelers:

  1. contractual service providers and independent professionals are eligible for a work permit up to 12 months, with an option for extension
  2. intra-corporate transferees who are specialists and senior personnel can stay for up to 3 years, unless the length of the contract is for a lesser time. They may also seek an extension of up to 18 months
  3. short term business visitors and business visitors for investment purposes may only be granted temporary entry for up to a total of 90 days
  4. investors can stay for a maximum initial period of 1 year, with a possibility for extension

Finally, remember to check whether specific restrictions or exceptions apply at the Member States' level. For example, Annex 10-B in CETA contains member-state specific reservations applying to short-term business visitors and key personnel.

Note that CETA temporary entry and stay provisions do not cover general labour or low-skilled jobs and these provisions do not deal with permanent employment, citizenship, residency, or any visa requirements.

Top market trends and related opportunities for women exporters

Canadian women entrepreneurs are far more prevalent in services sectors than in goods-producing industries. An examination of women owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by industry sector shows that they are more likely to be service providers, notably in the health and social assistance, education, culture and food sectors or in retail trade than in agriculture, construction and manufacturing. Of note, given concerns about women's low presence in information and communications technology (ICT) activity, global comparisons actually show that Canadian women have strong representation in this sector. While their proportions still fall below one in ten (7.1%), this remains at least twice higher than in the US, United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Sweden, Australia, Taiwan or the Netherlands.

Below is a selection of key market trends that emerged from the interviews with Canadian women exporters and Trade Commissioners on the ground. While there are business opportunities in virtually all sectors, these trends play specifically to the strengths of Canadian women entrepreneurs and point out to potential business opportunities in various sub-sectors.

Due to the variations in customers' preferences and market potential across EU Member States and sectors, it is advisable to consult with a local trade commissioner to discuss your situation and the potential for selling your particular products or services abroad.

(1) Food and healthy eating

Only 2% of the EU's agri-food imports come from Canada. Due to the elimination of high tariffs under CETA, there are enhanced opportunities for Canadian agri-food products. For example, products like fruit juices and preparations of vegetables, fruit or nuts are experiencing high export growth, with an increase of 41.7% and 27.1% respectively between 2018 and 2019. Fish and seafood products are also in high demand - with the EU as the world's largest importer of these products. Imports account for 57% of total EU fish and seafood consumption.

Another key trend in the food sector is that consumers in Europe are increasingly seeking healthy foods as well as specialty foods. During a BWIT trade mission to Europe in 2018, healthy snacks were identified as popular. Gluten-free and organic foods are also more mainstream than in North America. Keep in mind that consumers' appetite for such products is not equal from one Member State to another. In terms of organic food, Germany leads the European market right ahead of France, with their markets being worth above $15 billion and $11 billion respectively while markets in Eastern European countries are less developed – for now.

Canadian regulations are more aligned with the EU's than U.S. ones are and Canadian products are usually viewed as higher quality. However, again, you need to take into account the diversity of consumers' preferences: in certain EU countries, like Sweden, branding healthy foods as Canadian is a plus, but not so in a country like Italy where homegrown is more popular. Note that the Benelux is the gateway to Europe with myriad services for exporters (e.g. logistics, trucking, relabeling, bottling, assembly).

Shelby Taylor, founder and President of Chickapea, producing organic pasta made with only chickpeas and lentils, is now eyeing the EU market to take advantage of CETA after her success in exporting to the U.S. Her rationale: "Europe is a little ahead of Canada in terms of healthy living, with less processed food." Interestingly, she says there are few sections in stores dedicated to organic and healthy living. "It's just integrated. And because people there are used to spending a higher percentage of their income on groceries and food, selling premium organic products is easier." Another big benefit is the ability to work directly with retailers and have higher margins. "Unlike North America, there are no listing fees so you don't need as much funding upfront and it gives you a more positive cash flow model from the get go. In addition, the high volume and condensed population, plus high acceptance of organic products, all make it a fantastic opportunity."

(2) Sustainability

Studies undertaken in 2009 and 2013 show that environmental impacts are the third most important factor for EU consumers, after quality and price. Similar to North America, there is growing consumer demand in Europe for sustainably sourced products, and Canadian suppliers will find an economically viable and growing market for these products.

A spring 2019 survey of retailers in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain found that 98.5% consider sustainability as a factor in product sourcing. Many work in partnership with their suppliers to introduce environmental and social standards.

Of note, the EU is also the world's third-largest importer of clean tech products and there is considerable political will at the EU level to stimulate investments in green products and services under the EU Green Deal. Germany is one of the largest cleantech markets and is actively positioning itself as a leading provider of complete smart technology solutions. With goals to exit fossil fuels and nuclear, there is great focus on how to deal with the energy transition.

Jodi Glover, CEO of Real Tech Inc., which manufactures technology that monitors water quality, has been selling to most countries in Europe for a decade, with 40% of her sales already from the region. She looks forward to doing more business when new directives around water quality monitoring come into place there soon. Likewise, CETA with its labour mobility provisions will be helpful as the company grows more into a systems style business selling advanced technology and solutions and will need to send people there more often to train. "We've never been fearful of exporting our products," Glover says. "What we do with sensors and water quality can be applied anywhere, so we can be wherever there is water. The water sector and clean tech are a good place to be."

(3) ICT services and tech solutions in response to Covid-19

The EU is the largest importer of ICT services in the world and it's a growing market. Yet, there is diversity across the EU due to differing quality in digital infrastructure and disparities in online activity. Spain, France, the UK and Germany have large IT hubs while countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Italy rank the lowest in terms of connectivity, internet use and integration of digital technologies. Romania, Germany, Malta, Ireland, and the Netherlands have registered the largest improvement in this field over recent years. These growth rates are indicators of business opportunities for external players like Canadian companies.

Demand for technology solutions to tackle the challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to remain high, as illustrated by the dedicated hackathons organized throughout Europe. The Covid-19 crisis also reinforced the demand for SMACS solutions (Software as a service, cloud, mobility, clouds, analytics and security), that was already high. This is due to increased needs for infrastructures adapted to remote working as well as tools that can respond to cyberattacks – on the rise and more diversified with the Covid-19 crisis.

Teri Marlene Prince, CEO of Terida, a company specializing in multi-faceted cloud solutions, has identified a wide-ranging list of opportunities in the EU defence and financial sectors for companies that understand IT cybersecurity and risk, and multi-jurisdictional operations, rules, regulations and compliance. However, she emphasizes that gaining the necessary security clearances, and meeting and maintaining the privacy and cybersecurity standards for this work, requires time and expense, and that having a presence on the ground is critical.

(4) Ageing population and healthcare

With close to 100 million people over 65 years old, the EU is the second fastest ageing society in the world. The growth of the 'silver economy' creates demand for services, products and solutions for seniors - ranging from active wear to compression garments and medical supports. Concerns about how to deal with an aging workforce and how to build a diverse workforce can also open the door for Canadian women to bring consulting expertise and gender and diversity inclusion programs to the workplace.

A greater political focus on healthcare, especially in the post-COVID19 recovery, is likely to accelerate the implementation of innovative solutions in this field and may result in increased business opportunities. For example, the healthcare industry was already a priority for Germany, with a focus on smart health, medical technology, aging and digitalization. Germany is also Europe's biggest biotech market. Because the German healthcare system falls behind in digitalization and digital solutions, there are excellent export and partnering opportunities for innovative Canadian health solution providers.

(5) E-commerce

The Covid-19 crisis saw a sharp increase in the use of e-commerce by EU consumers and created new opportunities for Canadian companies. This comes in addition to pre-existing positive trends since all indicators relevant to e-commerce in the EU have been on the rise over the past decade. The number of people shopping online increased from 63% in 2016 to 71% in 2019, which is far from negligible for a market of 400 million plus consumers.

Some key regional trends have emerged in the last years. Western Europe, with the most populous countries like the UK, France and Germany, represented 70% of the total share of e commerce turnover in 2019. The countries in Northern Europe score high in important e commerce indicators, such as internet penetration or the ease of doing business, but they represent smaller markets, as shown by the lower number of e shoppers and e commerce turnover. The number of e shoppers and level of internet penetration is generally lower in Southern and Eastern Europe, but this is also where we see the highest growth in e commerce turnover. This market is also less saturated, which means more opportunities and easier access for exporters.

A challenge is the diversity of consumers' preferences across EU countries regarding payment methods, privacy concerns, sustainability, delivery methods, delivery waiting time expectations and payment security. For example, 76% of consumers prefer home delivery in Belgium while in Norway, 65% use collect points. In France, 33% of consumers have security concerns that limit or prevent them from ordering online, whereas in Bulgaria, they are only 4%.

Julia Pracht, a trade commissioner in Germany who covers consumer goods and e commerce, says that "when approached properly, e commerce is a great way for an exporter to broaden its customer base and to reach new markets. A company can also have more control over its brand than if its product were just sitting on a shelf in a department store, among competing products."

She cautions that the German market is tough to break into. "Selling is probably going to be more difficult than anticipated," she remarks. "Expecting overnight success may be unrealistic—it may take a few years to break into the market." Pracht says exporters should not think that their experience in one European country will be 100% applicable to another. Her overall advice for those coming to Germany: "Prepare, prepare, prepare. The devil is in the details, whether that is regulation, logistics or branding."

How to tackle challenges

Being aware of challenges is important when looking to sell abroad and selecting your target markets. Below is an overview of the most common challenges encountered by exporters to the EU market as well as tips from women entrepreneurs to help you avoid or overcome them.

"Studying the market of each country before you attempt to sell is helpful," says Manon Pilon, President, Derme & Co., a provider of high-quality cosmetic skincare products and spa equipment "The distribution structure is different in North America than it is in certain countries in Europe. It's important to adapt to the different individual cultures. For example, a product communication or description would be very different in France then it would be in Quebec. Details like this make a difference for a brand."

"Be prepared if you are in a service-related industry to have support staff who will answer questions at midnight here and to include the right content and tools online so that European customers can get the information they need when they need it," advises Jill White President Water Play Solutions Corp. And be mindful of meeting the right deadlines for submitting bids and proposals, recommends Prince of Terida.

"Holidays are a cultural difference to bear in mind, Europeans gear up at different times than we do and close up at different times," Prince notes, citing business shutdowns in August in many countries there. Canada's Ambassador to France, Isabelle Hudon, says to be prepared for long business lunches, up to three hours, in France where eating is an intrinsic part of the culture. White of Waterplay recommends doing research to understand cultures and norms. "In the Netherlands, three kisses – not two - make the relationship better," she notes.

That's exactly what Taylor of Chickapea has done. Through her Canadian broker's partner company in Europe (established in order to bring brands to Europe after free trade opened up), she is using a broker there who will also manage the regulatory work. "We have done our research and due diligence and also know what we have to do from a certification standpoint," she says.

Pilon of Derme found that registering her company's organic skincare products in France was longer and more complicated than expected and required her to demonstrate further testing. She employed local consultants to help.

Glover of Real Tech received: "great support from EDC with its credit insurance and we don't have to bear the burden," she says. "Before getting insurance, we would have to get the client to pay the full amount upfront and that was a barrier to closing the sale."

Leveraging networks and resources

Women exporters often emphasize the importance of having "feet on the ground" and describe the EU as a "relationship market" as opposed to the United States market which is more transactional. No matter how good your product or service is and how attractive your price, it takes time to develop relationships that are key to capturing and retaining business in the EU. Developing relevant connections can also help you overcome some of the challenges highlighted above by allowing you to gain a better understanding of consumers' preferences as well as the cultural specificities of your target markets.

Networks and resources for Canadian women exporters

Women's business organizations - There are many women's and other business organizations in Europe that represent an ideal starting point to identify good potential partners. Contact them for referrals or, even better, attend one of their conferences to network and meet possible partners, even customers, face to face. See the list of key contacts and resources.

Trade Missions - Participating in trade missions is another excellent way to get better familiarized with a market. Missions organized by Global Affairs Canada and its Businesswomen in Trade (BWIT) group typically include one-on-one meetings with potential clients or partners as well as receptions with high-level business people in their communities. For example, BWIT has organized trade missions to the UK, Germany, France and Belgium. The Netherlands Consulate also hosted an inbound mission of women in tech from their country during the Collision Conference in Toronto in 2019.

According to a participant in the BWIT trade mission to Europe, Rachel Bunbury, Practice Leader, Westbury Law, the value of such a trade mission, is three-fold:

  1. It gives you the chance to practise your pitch with other delegates before meeting your target companies.
  2. It enables you to connect with companies you wouldn't have found yourself and to have the support of the trade commissioners who give you insight into the companies and local market;
  3. It allows you to build your network with other Canadian participants and get business or referrals from them.

Trade Commissioner Service - Contact the Trade Commissioner Service for information about business opportunities in a specific EU country. There is a trade team in 25 offices in the EU that understands the needs of women business exporters. Contact the Mission in your target markets that will assign a Trade Commissioner who is knowledgeable about your sector and can introduce you to relevant contacts.

Trade shows - Attending trade shows and industry conferences, in-person or virtually, is also a good strategy for getting a first-hand feel for a particular market and for meeting valuable contacts and future customers as well as potential partners, agents and/or distributors. For example, Brussels usually hosts a Global Seafood Show annually - at which 20 Canadian women exporters participated in 2018 with success.

Advice from women exporters on successful market entry strategies

Find the right distributor

New exporters often seek a distributor as an entry point to the EU market. However, finding the right distributor can be challenging and you will need to conduct some due diligence to ensure a good fit. Numerous women exporters pointed out trade shows as a good way to meet and assess the potential of a distributor.

Glover of Real Tech has a distributor network in Europe, and participates in international trade shows, such as Aquatech Amsterdam, to source good people. "They are great venues for our industry to network and find partners in different countries," she says. "Exhibiting at shows is an affordable way as a smaller company to get face time and do business. In our early years, we did this under the Ontario and Canada banner, which brought qualified partners and buyers to the booth and helped us get introductions and connections, which was fantastic. Now that we are more established, we have our own booth."

Ainslie Cyopik, whose company – Ainslie Wear – manufactures ballet wear, participates at a trade show for the dancewear industry in Florence, Italy, that European buyers attend to see all the vendors. "We walked the show for a couple years and then had a mini-booth across from an exhibitor with an entry-level brand for kids," she explains. "He approached us and now distributes our higher-end dancewear to balance his line."

Develop partnerships

Establishing a partnership with a local company can lower the risks of entering the EU market by helping you understand different cultures, local nuances, the players and influencers, and regulations.

Chickapea's experience with a broker: Because she can sell her pasta directly to retailers in Europe, Taylor of Chickapea does not need a distributor, but is working with a broker based in Romania, where she plans to first launch in Europe. "It's not a typical place to launch but it's a great place because there are many big box stores and it's easier to penetrate the market than in France," she explains. "If you get into Carrefour Romania, for example, it will put you into the system and likely make it easier to get into Carrefour France and other countries as well."

Signifi's strategic alliance: Signifi Solutions Inc., a company that designs and develops robotic-based dispensing kiosks, has a strategic alliance with a UK company that has a presence in over 100 countries, including Europe. "They do our installations all over the world," says Shamira Jaffer, President of Signifi. A manufacturing company in the UK does assembly work for Signifi. With the help of CanExport funding, Jaffer also invested in a dedicated consultant in the UK, who is closing his first deal for Signifi - with Disney – wherein Signifi's machines will be placed in Heathrow Airport. "The grant allowed us to take a step forward sooner than we could have otherwise.

"Diversio's global advisory board: Laura McGee, CEO of Diversio, a company that leverages data, metrics and machine learning to help organizations analyze, track, and improve diversity and inclusion, has a global advisory board of senior and well-connected individuals within her target markets of Europe, US and Canada. She sourced them by starting with her own network, strategically seeking people in three sectors - finance, law and technology. McGee has initially focused on Europe abroad "because they are quicker buyers and have greater buying power" and she believes CETA will open up opportunities. To enter the market, her Canadian advisor introduced her to JP Morgan in London which helped her connect there. "Our global advisory board is our secret sauce," she says. "We really lean on them for introductions. The Trade Commissioner Service in London is also helpful that way."

Work with contacts that get you into supply chains

Supply chains. Establishing relationships with European companies that do business in Canada and supplying them with products or services is one way to get into their supply chains. Likewise, selling to larger Canadian companies that export to the EU is an indirect way to enter the market.

Topax Protektive Packaging, which manufactures protective packaging and provides engineered solutions to protect valuable goods and equipment through their lifecycle, does not directly export to the EU. "But many of our customers do and as a result our packaging does go to the EU," explains Jo-Lynn Hoffmann, Vice President.

Supplier diversity. Corporations in larger EU markets may offer supplier diversity programs. Bear in mind, however, supplier diversity initiatives are not as prominent or widespread in Europe as in North America, but more of a work in progress as governments seek to encourage large companies to create programs.

Canadian women with businesses certified through WEConnect International, a global network focusing exclusively on women-owned business, can find valuable contacts in countries where WEConnect has a presence and, in order to get experience, perhaps become a supplier to a larger one that is already selling to a corporate member of WEConnect. WEConnect International has a physical presence in the UK with WEConnect Europe and certifies women-owned businesses in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland and Türkiye. WEConnect Europe holds a large annual conference in the UK, which is an ideal event for certified Canadian women entrepreneurs to meet potential partners and corporate members who are looking to diversify their supply chains and include more women.

We want to hear from you, so keep us posted at on your opportunities, your challenges and your progress.

Appendix: List of key contacts and resources

Here is a list of trade-related resources that can help you connect with contacts in order to have valuable exchanges and develop relationships.

Contact Trade Commissioners on the ground who can introduce you to the right person in each of the organizations listed below.

Funding Sources


Delivered by the Trade Commissioner Service, CanExport provides financial support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to develop new export markets. The program funds a wide range of export marketing activities, such as travel, participation in trade shows and trade missions, creating or translating marketing products, and more.

More women-owned businesses than ever can get financial assistance to explore international markets, thanks to recent updates. The program now offers grants of up to $30,000 to small businesses, providing business women with more flexibility and faster access to funding. CanExport has put concrete provisions in place to accommodate special circumstances of under-represented groups, including Indigenous, LGBTQ2, women and youth entrepreneurs. Visit CanExport funding for exporters, innovators, associations and communities to view the full Applicant's guide.


Telephone: 1-866-203-2454.

BDCXpansion Loan

BDC provides loans of $100,000 to $750,000 for expanding your market abroad, with repayment up to six years. Contact BDC online or by phone at 877-232-2269.

BDC Capital Women in Technology (WIT) Fund

This is one of the world's largest venture capital funds dedicated to investing in women-led technology companies. Since women are under-represented and under-funded in technology and investment companies, BDC will invest $200 million over a five-year period to help bridge this gap.

Export Guarantee Program

This EDC program helps Canadian firms access more business financing from their bank. Its Export Guarantee Program works with you and your bank to increase your borrowing options and to help you overcome some common financial barriers to selling outside of Canada. Eligibility: EDC looks at the amount of international sales you have produced over time and your financial institution's lending agreement, as well as other factors. Check out Boost Your Working Capital with EDC's Export Guarantees.


SheEO is a global community of radically generous women supporting women-led Ventures working on the 'World's To Do List'. Its goal is to reach 1M Activators, 10,000 women-led Ventures and a $1B perpetual fund to support women for generations to come. The model brings together 500 women (called Activators) in each year's cohort, who contribute $1100 in CAN, US, NZ and AU, and $1500 in the UK, each as an Act of Radical Generosity. The money is pooled together and loaned out at 0% interest to five women-led Ventures selected by the Activators.


Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA)

CTA is a program that helps high growth, high potential Canadian companies in the information and communications technology, cleantech and life sciences sectors gain traction in international markets. Successful applicants get access to coaching, mentoring and hands-on experience in their target market for four to six months. To encourage more women to participate, the CTA program launched an initiative called "48 Hours for Women in Tech," whereby women entrepreneurs spend two days in a new market to decide whether the full CTA program is a fit for their business.


GroYourBiz offers women business owners monthly problem-solving meetings, collective wisdom from a global group of like-minded, motivated entrepreneurs and professionals, new perspectives and practical solutions to business challenges and B2B cross-marketing opportunities through GroYourBiz Advisory Boards, both in-person and virtual. It also has a GroYourBiz Institute for Global Connections, a non-for-profit association that aims to:

TAP (Trade Accelerator Program) Canada

Created by the World Trade Centre Toronto and the Toronto Region Board of Trade, TAP Canada is a dynamic, hands-on six-week workshop helping SMEs scale up, develop and execute an export plan. It provides companies with access to Canada's top exporting advisors, resources and contacts, giving them the training and support they need to become successful international traders in their specific business sector. Now available in 11 cities across the country. A pilot Women Entrepreneur TAP was held in Toronto in, January 2020. Multiple programs across Canada are expected.



This Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting is a web tool for Canadian companies interested in exploring business opportunities in international markets. It gathers resources and know-how of various top trade organizations and professionals, and covers services that are available to help Canadian exporters, along with the basics of trade law, customs and regulations, and target market research. Sponsored by Ontario Creates,, PLANT magazine, and Annex Business Media.

Really Useful Sites for International Trade Professional (FITA)

Get a free subscription to the Federation of International Trade Associations' (FITA) "Really Useful Sites for International Trade Professionals," a bi-weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting 4-5 web sites that are useful or enliven your business day - from FITA's International Trade Web Resources.

Magnet Export Business Portal

The Magnet Export Business Portal delivers targeted export events, resources and opportunities to you through a customized dashboard created to help Canadian businesses succeed in reaching export markets, and grow their businesses with international customers. Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, the Magnet Export Business Portal harnesses resources and services from the Government of Ontario, Export Development Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada, and Global Affairs Canada, and delivers them directly to businesses using push notifications and a customized dashboard. This next generation technology simplifies pathways to navigating Ontario's trade ecosystem.


The Canada Tariff Finder

Canada Tariff Finder is a free tool from BDC that allows Canadian exporters to check the tariffs applicable to a specific good in a foreign market. The focus is on countries where Canada has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in place. The tool will help you:

EDC Export Help Hub

Available free of charge when you register and create a MyEDC Account, this online tool provides you with 24/7 easy access to questions and answers curated by EDC experts. With over 200 articles, webinars and guides, the Hub has the insights you need to succeed in the European Union and US. You can also submit your own questions if you can't find answers on the site and EDC advisors will help you make smart decisions and thrive in international markets.

EDC Trade Insights

From the early stages of exporting to global trade trends, EDC experts share their knowledge and insights on topics that will help you take your business beyond borders.

Interpreter Rates

Note: These are rates negotiated by the Global Association of Conference Interpreters and the UN. They provide a ballpark estimate of competitive rates charged in the private sector.

Other Governmental programs and departments

Business Women in International Trade (BWIT)

Global Affairs Canada's Business Women in International Trade website offers a wealth of information specific to women exporters. Canadian women can access support networks and multiple resources geared to help them prepare and succeed in the competitive export marketplace. BWIT also organizes or supports trade for women exporters and those interested in expanding internationally.

Trade Commissioner Service (TCS)

Provides a range of support, services and programs from an extensive network of trade commissioners across Canada and over 160 key global markets. They help Canadian companies prepare for market entry, assess market potential, find qualified contacts and troubleshoot. You can get market reports and sector-specific news, access business leads, set up meetings with international trade specialists, request export financing and help manage your risks. Visit the dedicated webpage for guides and resources.


The official e-magazine of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, featuring information and tips on exporting.

Trade section of the Mission of Canada to the European Union: Contact the trade section at if you have specific questions or are facing issues about an EU-level regulation or legislation.

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)

BDC is the only Canadian bank devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs and provides consulting services and financing to help build a global presence. Visit the dedicated webpage for step-by-step guidance on expanding internationally.

Export Development Canada (EDC)

Provides insurance and financial services, bonding products and small business solutions to Canadian exporters and investors and their international buyers. Supporting Canadian direct investment abroad and investment into Canada, much of EDC's business is done in partnership with other financial institutions and through collaboration with the Government of Canada.

Provincial Trade Departments

Each provincial government has a trade department, easily found on each government's website.

Trade Missions

Watch for trade missions sponsored by governments and other organizations, such as the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT-Toronto)


Women's business organizations


Women's business organizations in Canada can be helpful in connecting you with trade resources and contacts.

Canadian Women in Technology (CanWIT)

A national community-based network that provides connections and training to boost women's participation and advancement in the high technology sectors. CanWIT is a division of CATAAlliance, a national influential and entrepreneurial technology alliance committed to growing the global competitiveness of its members.

Women's Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC)

A key partner to BWIT and TCS, WEOC is an association of organizations, including women's business networks, economic and small business development agencies, governments, corporations, academia and industry associations, across the country that provide programs and services directly to women business owners in Canada. This includes skills development, connections to financing, trade development opportunities, networking and mentoring.

Women Business Enterprises Canada (WBE Canada)

WBE Canada is a non-profit organization, led by Corporate Members, that opens doors for Canadian women-owned businesses to supply chains across North America. It certifies Canadian firms that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by women and introduces them to opportunities with corporations. In addition to certification, WBE Canada delivers education, training, coaching and mentoring programs that ramp up the capacity of women business owners to bid successfully on large procurement opportunities.

WEConnect Canada

WEConnect Canada is part of WEConnect International, a global network that focuses exclusively on women-owned businesses and connect them to qualified buyers around the world. WEConnect International identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women's business enterprises based outside of the U.S. that are at least 51% owned, as well as managed and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with multinational corporate buyers. WEConnect is active in Canada working with strategic partners, government agencies, corporate members and women business owners across the country.

Women in Communications and Technology

Raises the profile of women working in the communications field through a number of benefits, services, awards and internships, a national mentoring program, local and national events, professional development, high-profile initiatives like the Women on Boards program and through strong partnerships with government agencies, industry corporations and other associations.

Women in Film and Television

A not-for-profit professional organization supporting women in screen-based media (film, television and digital media) to build, advance and sustain their careers nationally and internationally. It is part of a global network comprised of 37 chapters worldwide and over 10,000 members.

Women Presidents' Organization

A non-profit membership organization, headquartered in the U.S., but with 16 Canadian chapters, for women presidents of entrepreneurial companies who take part in professionally-facilitated peer advisory groups in order to grow their businesses to the next level. To become a member, your company must generate a minimum of US$2 million (US$1 million if service-based) in annual revenues.

Women's Executive Network (WXN)

A network of successful businesswomen, primarily executives but also open to entrepreneurs, that offers events and mentoring programs.


Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Through its Women in Business Initiative (WBI), ACOA provides financial support to not-for-profit business organizations to help women business owners:

These are the business organizations that ACOA supports:

Central Canada

Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT)

OWIT-Toronto and OWIT-Ottawa are the Canadian chapters of the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT), a non-profit professional organization dedicated to increasing global trade opportunities for women. Membership benefits include networking through local chapter meetings and an annual international conference; access to global business contacts; education and training through topical meetings, workshops, seminars and webinars, and informative newsletters. OWIT-Toronto also organizes trade missions. OWIT International offers virtual membership if you do not have a physical chapter in your area. Visit Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) website to find out more. If you're travelling in other countries around the world, you can also check out its site to find a local chapter.

Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs (CAWEE)

Based in Toronto, CAWEE is a networking and social alliance of women entrepreneurs, successful small business owners and business leaders from some of Canada's most influential organizations. The association provides a forum for business women to exchange ideas, build relationships, and participate in workshops, conferences and special events to aid in the development and advancement of their business and professional lives.


Femmessor is an organization dedicated to the development of women's entrepreneurship whose mission is to contribute directly to the creation and growth of women-owned and run businesses in 17 regions of Quebec. Femmessor is able to offer financing in the form of conventional loans or share capital. Women entrepreneurs who qualify could receive:

Ontario's Small Business Enterprise Centres (SBECs)

While the centres are geared to all business owners, regardless of gender, some programs and services do exist within them for women entrepreneurs.

SBECs are located across the province and they provide:

PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise

A not-for-profit social enterprise, Paro is a business support and networking organization that collaborates to empower women, strengthen small business and promote community economic development across Northern, Northeastern, Eastern, South Eastern, and Central Ontario (excluding the Greater Toronto Area).

Réseau des femmes d'affaires du Québec (RFAQ) (in French only)

A Quebec businesswomen's network with a mandate to contribute to the success of businesswomen (entrepreneurs, managers and professionals) by promoting contacts, self-help and a dynamic business network. It has a Montreal head office and regional offices.

Western Canada

Western Economic Diversification Canada established the Women's Enterprise Initiative (WEI) to provide business information and services to women entrepreneurs. These non-profit centres provide a variety of unique products for women entrepreneurs including advisory services, training options, networking opportunities, business loans and referrals to complementary services.

The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) British Columbia

A not-for-profit society run by and for its members, whose mission is to educate women to accelerate their opportunities to launch, lead, build, invest in and divest of entrepreneurial businesses.

Trade Associations, Organizations and Chambers of Commerce in Canada

Forum for International Trade Training (FITT)

The organization is a source of current, industry-validated information available on how to buy, sell, manufacture, finance and source products, raw materials or services anywhere in the world. As an industry-driven world authority on global trade, FITT strives to provide reliable and timely knowledge and practical resources to advance the field of global business. It also awards the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP|FIBP) designation, a professional designation that proves credibility and competency in international business, to those who have met a rigorous set of competency standards, as set by FITT. Be sure to check out its resources page.

I.E. Canada

I.E. Canada is a national, non-profit organization representing importers and exporters and committed to ensuring that trade regulations, policies and processes allow businesses to import and export efficiently. It serves businesses who depend upon the movement of goods across Canada's international border.

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME)

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) has been advocating for and representing member interests. CME has member-driven programs and services to help companies work on their business, by building knowledge and capacity in key areas, like LEAN and productivity; trade and export; energy and environment; leadership development; safety and more. CME has regional chapters in every province, championed by local manufacturers.

Don't forget to check with your own industry association(s) whether there is dedicated support for women exporters.

Chambers of Commerce in Canada

Women's business organizations: EU and international


Association of Organisations of Mediterranean Businesswomen (AFAEMME)


Federation of Mediterranean Businesswomen Associations, launched in 2002 in Barcelona (Spain). AFAEMME currently comprises 60 businesswomen organizations from 24 Mediterranean countries. AFAEMME is a coordinator of Euro Mediterranean business and gender equality projects and ground-breaking research, a networking platform for businesswomen and women entrepreneurs in the Euro Mediterranean region and a lobby for strengthening gender equality and facilitating the access of women to decision-making positions in the economy.

European Women Management Development Network (EWMD)


The Network links professionals from all areas of business, education, politics and culture. Its spirit is characterized by determination, personal engagement, give and take, and open exchange. Founded in 1984 by women engaged in business schools, universities and business associations across Europe, its main goal was to bring women closer to higher management positions by launching studies on women's contributions and experiences in management and by disseminating their best practices among European companies and business schools. EWMD welcomes both individual and corporate members, employed and self-employed.

International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International)


BPW International is one of the most influential international networks of business and professional women with affiliates in over 100 countries in five continents. Its members include influential women leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, professionals and young business and professional women. BPW develops the professional, business and leadership potential of women through skill building, networking advocacy, mentoring around the world.

The International Alliance for Women (TIAW)

An international umbrella organization of women's networks representing more than 50,000 women worldwide whose mission is the economic empowerment of women.

WEConnect International

WEConnect International is a global network focusing exclusively on women-owned businesses and connect them to qualified buyers around the world. WEConnect International identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women's business enterprises based outside of the U.S. that are at least 51% owned, as well as managed and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with multinational corporate buyers. WEConnect has chapters around the world.

European Gateway for Women's Entrepreneurship (WEgate)

A growing and diverse number of stakeholders are engaging to support women entrepreneurs across Europe. The European Gateway for Women's entrepreneurship, WEgate, is an e-platform launched by the European Commission to support this network. WEgate is an organization which does not provide support services or advice, nor has commercial purposes. It is an online gateway to useful and inspiring information, mostly presented through a short description text and useful web links that target specifically women entrepreneurs.

Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP)


WEP is the European network association representing, promoting and supporting women entrepreneurs across Europe. WEP is a registered international non-profit organization (AISBL) based in Brussels and the Secretariat of the European Parliament's Interest Group on Women Entrepreneurs.

Worldwide Network of Women Business Owners (FCEM)

Head office: France


Founded in France in 1945 at the end of World War II, and months before the United Nations, the Association quickly spread into other European countries and the 5 continents. FCEM brings together in solidarity and friendship, like-minded women who share a common interest: that of entrepreneurship. Today the network FCEM includes over 120 different countries and 5 million members from the 5 continents, and FCEM membership is growing, with new demands for membership each year.


Le Réseau Diane (in French only)
French-speaking female Entrepreneurs
WoWo Community – Hero sprl (in French only)
National Belgium Office



Network supporting the position of women in science


Association Femmes Entrepreneures (in French only)

Run by volunteers, the association, comprising some 100 member women entrepreneurs, is a dynamic network allowing them to develop and promote their businesses. It features events dedicated to networking, entrepreneurship and related themes. The association boasts a great cultural diversity (with more than 20 nationalities) "where international meets local."

Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises (FCE) (in French only)


The Association supports women entrepreneurs in economic life and the strengthening of their presence in decision-making bodies at local, regional and national level, and to inform and train its members. Interprofessional, apolitical and non-governmental, FCE France is a largely decentralized organization where each member has the opportunity to take responsibility and get involved.

Member of AFAEMME.

Empow-Her (in French only)

26 rue Feydeau, 75002 Paris

Formerly Paris Pionnières, WILLA assists female-run tech start-ups through mentoring, events, and advocacy. The website includes a robust portal for the sharing of ideas and making connections.



Since its inception in 1954, the VdU has been active in campaigning for female entrepreneurship, more women in leadership positions, better rights for women in the workplace and a healthier combination of work and family life for both women and men. The VdU currently represents some 1,800 German businesses run by women. The association is divided into 16 federal-state-level branches, and offers networking opportunities with entrepreneurs in Germany and abroad, as well as a mentoring program for young businesswomen.

WEConnect Europe and MENA in Germany

See WEConnect International section


Italian association for women with leadership roles (AIDDA)


For over 50 years, AIDDA has been the point of reference for women with positions of responsibility. It is the first Italian association founded with the specific objective of enhancing and supporting female entrepreneurship, and the role of women managers and professionals. AIDDA strives to provide women with tools and services of excellence to help them grow in both a professional and social context.

Member of AFAEMME.

APID - Imprenditorialità Donna


Women's APID Entrepreneurship, established in 1989, aims to:

Member of AFAEMME.

ITWIIN-Italian Association of Women Inventors and Innovators


ITWIIN is an association of women inventors and innovators, created to promote and assist female innovative projects. Becoming member of ITWIIN means to support its projects and initiatives in the fields of female entrepreneurship and innovation.

Member of AFAEMME.

Italian Federation of Business and Professional Women - FIDAPA (in Italian only)


FIDAPA BPW Italy is an association made up of about 11,000 members in Italy and belongs to the IFBPW International Federation (International Federation of Business and Professional Women). The Federation promotes, coordinates and supports the initiatives of women operating in the fields of arts, professions and business, independently or in collaboration with other associations.

Member of AFAEMME.

Selena Italy

Selena Italy: Promotion Association for Female Entrepreneurship was created to promote women's entrepreneurship at a national and international level. It focuses on:

Member of AFAEMME.

Women at Work Italia - W@WITALIA (in Italian only)

Women @ Work Italia is a cultural association that promotes female entrepreneurship and provides support to existing women entrepreneurs or aspiring women in their professional career.

Member of AFAEMME.


La Fédération des Femmes Cheffes d'Entreprise du Luxembourg (FFCEL) (in French only)



WEConnect Europe and MENA in the Netherlands

See WEConnect International section

Women in Business (in Dutch only)


Women in Business is a network for active female entrepreneurs who want to further develop themselves and their companies. The members meet every two months.

Women's Business Initiative International (WBII)
The Hague

WBII is an international association of women entrepreneurs striving to succeed. The main purpose of the association is to empower women entrepreneurs to achieve their business goals through:

DigiDames (in Dutch only)


Rotterdam - The #DigiDames are aimed at female entrepreneurs who can use digital support in the management of the company or project. By means of targeted training, they provide survival tips and guide you through the digital jungle.

Network of Entrepreneurial Women World Wide (NEWWW)


NEWWW is an association for businesswomen and entrepreneurs with a world view who want to engage in a dialogue with women around the globe, create strong relationships and enhance their careers through these international connections. It was officially launched in Amsterdam in 2006 with members in over 10 countries, including Australia, Cameroon, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Germany, Mauritania, Switzerland, Tunisia, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the US.

AlleVrouwen Netwerken (in Dutch only)

This website provides an overview and connection point for a variety of industry-specific female entrepreneur networks such as financial services, construction, retail and real estate


Confederation of Netherlands' Industry and Employers VNO-NCW. The Royal Dutch Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises MKB-Nederland have a section which is focused on female entrepreneurs.


Association of Women Entrepreneurs in Portugal (in Portuguese only)


AMEP brings female entrepreneurs together in Portugal in order to exchange best practices, discuss matters of interest – whether of general interest to women entrepreneurs or according to region/sector – and meet likeminded women in a bid to strengthen the image of female entrepreneurship in the country. The website features relevant news, partnerships, AMEP's engagement in international associations and movements, and upcoming events.

National Association of Female Entrepreneurs (in Portuguese only)


The National Association of Female Entrepreneurs (Associação Nacional de Empresárias) was established in 1990 and it aims to support the empowerment of women in business. The association gets women involved in the discussion of major economic and social issues and helps foster women's business initiatives.

Mulheres à Obra – Women at work (in Portuguese only)


An entrepreneurship community of women that, in partnership with Universidadade Catolica, offers guidance to women wishing to start new businesses and/or are looking for new opportunities or alternatives with financial sustainability.

WomenWinWin (in Portuguese only)


WomenWinWin is a non-profit organisation based in Portugal that aims to create an ecosystem that enhances and strengthens women's entrepreneurship. It aims to be positively recognised as the reference community of women entrepreneurs in Portugal through cooperation, skill development and sharing of experiences.


Association of Business and Professional Women of Zaragoza (ARAME) (in Spanish only)


Global Women Entrepreneur Network (GWEN- Barcelona)


"We are women who gather in many cities in the world. We share our experiences, how we successfully accomplish our goals in business." 269 members.

United Kingdom

Arab International Women's Forum

The Arab International Women's Forum stands unique as the first and only non-profit organization set up in London to link Arab business and professional women in the 22 Arab countries with each other and with their counterparts in the international community. It is based in London.

Member of AFAEMME.

British Association of Women Entrepreneurs


This is a peer group for women entrepreneurs who want to be challenged. Their aim is "to challenge women entrepreneurs not only to be great but to be exceptional!".


Established in 1999, everywoman is the expert in the advancement of women in business. With a presence in over 100 countries and a successful active network of over 20,000 members, everywoman is recognised globally as the professional organisation that drives the development of women at all levels.

Female Entrepreneur Association


An online hub that encourages and inspires women to become entrepreneurs and build successful businesses. The association aims to do this by providing women with weekly inspirational videos; hosting live online masterclasses on business topics; a monthly magazine 'This Girl Means Business'; and an array of free printable workbooks. It is based in Stockport.

WEConnect Europe and MENA

See WEConnect International section

WIBN – The Women in Business Network


WIBN – The Women in Business Network – is a membership organisation for women who wish to gain new business opportunities through word of mouth. WIBN has an extensive network of local groups around the UK and in the Republic of Ireland. It offers business women a forum to network their business and meet likeminded individuals. WIBN Membership is open to both business owners and employed women. It is based in London.

Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE)


WiRE is a national business support network; promoting, supporting and developing its membership of rural businesswomen from Harper Adams University in Shropshire. WiRE offers a package of practical business support which includes access to the 50 WiRE networks across the UK where women in business share expertise and knowledge, build new skills, help boost confidence and support each other to build better businesses. They are based in Shropshire.

Women Mean Biz

An established network of businesswomen and entrepreneurs working in all sorts of businesses from start-ups to established companies and large corporations, each group meets once a month for a two-hour session over lunch. All meetings follow the carefully developed WMB format whereby participants swap and share ideas, gain new contacts, build alliances and partnerships and get the support to drive their businesses forward. All members are automatically included in the WMB online business community and get their own profile page. They are based in Bristol.

For more information


Advisory board
Informal body of experts that an entrepreneur can use as a sounding board or to fill in gaps in expertise and contacts. Unlike a formal board of directors, advisory boards have no legal responsibility for the company's governance.
Independent entity acting as an intermediary.
CE marking
The CE symbol is affixed to a product by its manufacturer before being placed on the EU market to certify that the product has been assessed and complies with all EU requirements for safety, health and environmental protection.
Consumers buying goods or services over the Internet.
Export Development Canada (EDC)
EDC is a crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian companies grow their business internationally. It is Canada's export credit agency since 1944 and it equips companies with the following tools: trade knowledge, financial solutions, insurance and connections.
Internet penetration
refers to the percentage of the total population of a given country or region that has access to an Internet connection point.
Software as a Service
A software distribution model in which a service provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers on the web via a subscription rather than installed on local computers.
Trade Commissioner Service (TCS)
The TCS helps Canadian businesses grow by connecting them with its funding and support programs, international opportunities, and its network of trade commissioners in over 160 cities worldwide
Trade Missions
An international trip by government officials and/or businesspeople that is organized by agencies of national or provincial governments for purpose of exploring international business opportunities.
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