Sarah is an award-winning financial professional, with over 15 years of experience leading product strategy, complex projects, and thought leadership. Her accomplishments and experiences are varied, spanning the consumer and institutional groups, front and back office, consulting, and product management.
As Senior Director of Small Business at Visa Canada, Sarah is responsible for the development and roll-out of Visa’s products, platforms, and resources in the Canadian marketplace.
What is the She’s Next Grant Program about?
Visa Canada’s first Grant Program was launched earlier this year in partnership with IFundWomen, resulting in ten Canadian women entrepreneurs being awarded a grant of $10,000 CAD each and a one-year mentorship to support growing and expanding their business.
On July 15, 2021, building on the success of the first program, Visa Canada announced the expansion of the She’s Next Grant Program. Ten additional women entrepreneurs in Canada will be awarded grants of $10,000 CAD each and receive business coaching for one year to support growing and expanding their business. The application window for this expansion is now closed and we look forward to announcing the recipients in the near future.
Since March 2020, Visa has awarded over a quarter of a million dollars in grants and coaching scholarships to women across the globe through its She’s Next Grant Program.
What is the mission of Visa Canada?
Visa was founded on the idea that safe, fast, and reliable digital payments should be available to everyone, everywhere. Our mission at Visa Canada is to ensure that we are truly inclusive in our support for our communities in Canada, including small businesses, and to help provide access to the most innovative, reliable, and secure payment network.
With the expansion of the She’s Next Grant Program, Visa Canada aims to bolster its long-standing commitment to supporting small businesses, particularly those led by women entrepreneurs. Other examples of our support of small businesses include our#MySmallBizReco campaign that encouraged Canadians to recommend their favorite small business when they needed it most during an ongoing global pandemic, and the Visa Canada Small Business Hub which provides programs and solutions to help enable small businesses to drive efficiency and sales through the acceptance of digital payments as well as digital transformation.
I encourage all small businesses to visit Visa’s Small Business Hub. It is a localized online resource center, providing tools, partner offers and information on how to start, run and grow your business in a digital age.
What was the motivation behind coming up with the idea for this grant?
Across all Visa’s global markets, it was clear that the onset of COVID-19 hit small businesses hardest – and particularly those run by women. This spurred the creation of Visa’s global She’s Next Grant Program. We knew the situation for small businesses in Canada was also incredibly difficult and that we had an opportunity to support them, so there was a natural – and necessary – opportunity to introduce the program here in Canada too.
Even as the country gradually reopens, women-owned small businesses here continue to struggle and remain disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. According to StatsCan, only 13% of women-owned small businesses expected sales to increase by the second quarter of 2021. A mere 8% expected profitability to increase, and a full 42% expected profitability to decrease.
As a strong supporter of small businesses well before the pandemic, we at Visa understand that these businesses need our support now more than ever to continue recovering and to thrive in the future – this grant program is one way in which we can help to make this happen. We were so inspired by the success of the first round of the program – and the chance to support such an amazing, diverse group of businesses, right across Canada – we had to launch it again and continue to help fuel the collective recovery of the small business community.
Our content acknowledges the strength of the ardent entrepreneurs and their lifelong experiences of the marketplace that help them build successful business empires. Our belief in productive learning and providing inclusive content is why we have plans for a wide spectrum of activities that incorporate everything from reading to prolific networking.
What suggestions do you have for small-scale businesses that are finding it hard to pull through during these challenging times?
Small businesses are the heart of local Canadian communities, and they have shown tremendous resilience since the onset of COVID-19, despite a severely challenging environment. One thing the pandemic has highlighted is the importance of evolution, from adopting e-commerce to adapting payments.
Visa’s Back to Business Study: 2021 Outlook revealed contactless penetration grew to 43% of all face-to-face transactions around the world in the fiscal year 2020. In response, Visa worked with payments industry partners and governments in more than 50 markets to increase tap-to-pay transaction limits so that consumers are less frequently prompted for a signature and touchless payments can be made even more frequently. Additionally, Visa’s Back to Business Study: 2021 Women’s Edition revealed that 60% of women-owned Canadian small businesses took measures such as offering contactless payments (30%) and offering alternative payment solutions (12%).
It is Visa’s mission to support small businesses at this time and help them get back on their feet but, as we move beyond the pandemic, the capacity for flexibility, agility, and innovation remains crucial to any small business.