All Stories

How the WEOC National Loan Program helped a Manitoba flower farm flourish

By Katrya Bolger

The WEOC National Loan Program provides funding to Canadian women entrepreneurs to start and grow successful businesses. Highlighted business: Masagana Flower Farm.

Originally published by Manitoba Chamber of Commerce

When Lourdes Still landed a job as a flower buyer, she had no experience in the floral industry. For Still, who has a degree in nutrition and dietetics she earned in her native Philippines, working with flowers was not initially part of the plan when she moved to Winnipeg in 2009. But when she learned about the job through a connection at a wholesale flower importing company in 2012, she says she was eager to learn. She started purchasing flowers from around the world – largely in South America – and from then on, her love of flowers started to bloom.

Living in Winnipeg, with its long winters and short growing seasons, Still wondered about how she could nurture her passion during the colder months of the year. She had started cultivating her own garden and dabbling in floral arrangements, and was seeking ways to take her pastime a step further. She had heard about clients who kept their flower farms open during the winter using imported blooms. But it was in 2019 when she had what she calls a “lightbulb moment” when attending an eco-printing workshop at Long Way Homestead, a sheep farm and wool mill in eastern Manitoba. The farm raises sheep for wool production and colours their yarns with natural dyes from flowers and plants grown during the summer. “It kind of blew my mind,” Still says of the workshop.

Founding Masagana

The experience eventually led Still to found Masagana, a flower farm near La Broquerie, Manitoba, in 2020. The name, Masagana, is a Tagalog word meaning “abundant, plentiful and prosperous”. Besides growing seasonal blooms, the farm also offers the Tinta Experience, inviting clients to create designs on silk and cotton fabric by using dye from dried flowers (Tinta means “a variety of shade or colour” in Tagalog). Still uses the pieces she creates through this process, such as scarves and pillowcases, to sell throughout the colder months.

When she initially started seeking funding for Masagana Flower Farm, she says it was hard to make the case for a year-long flower business in a place like Manitoba. On average, there are only 135 frost-free days in the province each year. While she was able to secure some funding early on in her business journey from non-profit organization, Futurpreneur, she says she realized that she would need further funding to make her business viable year-round.

Finding funding

In 2022, she met with a financial advisor at the Manitoba Women’s Enterprise Centre (MWEC) where she learned about a new potential funding source – the WEOC National Loan Program. The program is run by the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) to support women entrepreneurs launching or expanding their businesses. Offering loans of up to $50,000, the program uses an inclusive approach to lending by requiring minimal barriers to qualify.

Shortly after receiving funds through the WEOC National Loan Program, Still was able to open a studio in the woods in June of last year, where she can host her natural dying and craft workshops year-round.

“Working with entrepreneurs to help them grow and expand their businesses is incredibly exciting,” says Alison Kirkland, CEO of WEOC. “Through the loan program, we are able to support creative women entrepreneurs like Lourdes in taking her business to the next level.”

Lourdes Still

“Nurturing their creative selves”

According to Still, one of the most gratifying things about offering the TINTA experience is seeing her clients take the time to detach from their daily lives while connecting with their creativity: “I really see myself facilitating this experience as a guide for people to help them nurture their creative selves – to let their creative flow and be inspired by the nature around them.”

She says she hopes that their experience not only plants the seeds of their creativity but allows them to think about the impact of their activities on the environment: “Hopefully, the experience will extend to other areas in their lives, and inspire them to take action and realize how our lives can make a positive contribution to the climate change emergency, one garden at a time.”

Looking for more?