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Group's women entrepreneurs remain brave, fierce

By Sandi Krasowski

Originally published in The Chronicle-Journal

Gauging the annual success of Paro Centre for Women’s Enterprise is not just about how well a company did, it’s all about their circles of women entrepreneurs, their successes and the creation of new businesses and employment.

Rosalind Lockyer, Paro founder and chief executive officer, says according to the latest report by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) chief economist, new businesses are starting up at less than half the rate of two decades ago.

“That’s worrisome because small business is our economy,” Lockyer said.

“And that’s why we support local businesses.”

Since 1995, Paro has been helping groups of women entrepreneurs come together to support each other to start and grow their companies.

“Some of our peer lending circles that started here in 1995 are still existing,” she said. “We’ve been around for a long time, we’ve grown and we’re working with their children and grandchildren now.”

Paro now operates a 49-member team, supports 220 peer lending circles across Ontario and continues to spread across Canada.

In 2022, Lockyer announced 700 new business startups.

“This year we did 935 (in Ontario),” she said. “That’s over 200 more businesses this year than the previous year.”

Also significant this year is Paro’s help with 1,234 business expansions.

“We have funding to help a business expand, whether it’s to help them go on a trade mission, to buy equipment, or to do an advanced marketing plan,” Lockyer noted.

“In the last year, the businesses that we worked with created 3,391 jobs. Creating jobs is what puts money into our economy.”

Lockyer says Paro is really about empowerment.

“That empowerment comes not only from the training but there’s also a model of self-determination, inclusivity and understanding what women need to be able to work together to grow their business,” she said.