Economic Empowerment and Survivor Microenterprises 

Author: Bailea Tayler

Economic empowerment is an ongoing barrier for women survivors of sexual exploitation. At NSM, we believe in the creative inspiration of each woman and have developed a microenterprise program to support entrepreneurship in our participants. There are four times more women entrepreneurs today than 40 years ago, and the majority of small businesses in Canada are micro-enterprises. We believe that this is a massive opportunity for the women we serve and aim to leverage the industry for empowerment.   

You might ask – how does it work? At 3 months in the day program, a participant is invited to partner with NSM in a microenterprise of her choosing. By purchasing products from microenterprise, you are directly supporting, financially and relationally, survivors in our day program. Products are made to order, and profits go to the participant in the form of a fund when they leave NSM in a planned and positive exit. It is a way to build positive self efficacy and help economically support the aspiration of the women who join NSM.

This initiative aims at supporting the diverse needs and capacity building on the skills of the women in NSM day program. In order to enhance employment skills and assist in the women’s learning about entrepreneurship, the microenterprise allows each participant to explore what small business has to offer them in a non-threatening and low risk way. It also provides a unique space for them to engage in creative outlets as sources of therapy and healing. Often, we have heard from participants that honing their craft is a massive part of the recovery process. As they begin to express themselves in their work they often find fulfillment and a new sense of meaning in the pieces they create.  

It is often very difficult for women exiting sexual exploitation to find meaningful and safe work. With increased stigmatization of their past, survivors are overlooked by employers. The microenterprise is a stepping stone, but we hope the program helps each survivor explore new opportunities and, if they are interested, eventually join our social enterprise team ‘For the Sparrows’ after graduating.

Social enterprises run by non-profits are a tool for women empowerment and equality in Canada. Not‐for‐profit social enterprises are more often majority-owned by women than both traditional SMEs and co-operatives with 25% of not‐for‐profit social enterprises majority female‐owned, compared with 16% of all SMEs and 16% of co-operatives. NSM is committed to providing wrap around care, the role of both the micro enterprise and social enterprise initiatives work to provide sustainable and safe jobs to some of Canadas most at risk and discriminated population. 


Bouchard, Isabelle., Bedard-Maltais, Pierre-Oliver. (Oct, 2019). A Nation of Entrepreneurs : The Changing Face of Canadian Entrepreneurship. Business Development Bank of Canada. Retrieved from bdc-etude-sbw-nation-entrepreneurs.pdf 

Canadian Women’s Foundation. (18 Oct, 2018). I Belong Here and I Deserve to Succeed: Supporting Women Entrepreneurs of Colour. Canadian Women’s Foundation: Leadership, Women’s Poverty. Retrieved from Support Women Entrepreneurs of Colour – Canadian Women’s Foundation 

Egbers, Adrian., Huang, Lyming. (March, 2022). SME Profile Social Enterprises in Canada. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada: Small Business Branch. Retrieved from h_03152_en.pdf (