WESK (Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing business advisory services, along with start-up financing options, mentoring and networking and learning and training opportunities for women pursuing businesses. The organization recently announced a Rural Ambassador program thanks to $450,000 of federal funding through Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan). 

One of the new Rural Ambassadors in the program is Faith Buhs of Watson, an energetic business owner with a firm handle on the direction she’d like her enterprise to take. We caught up with Faith and her colleague, program and growth manager with WESK, Jessica Pegg, at the Spring into Watson event. 

“The Rural Ambassador program is really to highlight women who have businesses in rural Saskatchewan,” Pegg noted. “The importance of it is that when you think about a small community, every single business there is run by an entrepreneur. There are no chains; the person who runs that business lives there in the town. So, if we don’t support the entrepreneurs in those communities, those communities cease to function as they do today.” 

WESK seeks to elevate the profile of women-owned businesses in the rural areas with support and advice to grow and scale their enterprises. WESK can provide funding where conventional lending institutions may not, said Pegg.  

Faith Buhs started her business, Stressed Out Mamas, just on the cusp of the pandemic restrictions. The subscription supplies packages for mothers help with the necessities for growing families. She explained how she initially became involved with WESK. 

“I didn’t know where to go or what to do in the situation after I started my own business, and I needed support. WESK had moved to an online platform which they had never done before, so we were connected that way. It was perfect for me being a rural person and not having to drive into the city all the time.” 

The side effect of WESK’s digital migration was that they became aware of many other business owners in need, just as those owners became aware of WESK’s resources. The success of the relationship between the WESK staff and Buhs led her to become a vocal champion of the organization, and ultimately to her position as a rural ambassador.  

Now, with five ambassadors located in various parts of the province, WESK has greater outreach than ever, identifying new clients and bringing them the supports, funding and training the businesses need to better serve their own customers and clients.  

“I love women entrepreneurs, and it’s a struggle for us,” Buhs confided. “I never knew that struggle because I was only a consumer. You don’t know the struggles that businesses have until you’re in it yourself. And WESK helps with all of it.” 

In their launch release, WESK elaborated that the five regional ambassadors, who are business owners themselves and have a passion for entrepreneurship, will serve as connection points within rural communities to support women at every stage of their business-ownership journeys. The regional ambassadors will make it easy for women business owners to access pathfinding support close to home to ensure they get the knowledge and resources they need, whether it’s advisory services, lending or learning opportunities.  

The ambassadors will also facilitate networking, mentorship, and promotional opportunities through local WESK Connect events, trade shows and ongoing efforts to showcase women-owned businesses in their communities. The connections women business owners make will empower them and provide a source of inspiration by being part of a larger community of like-minded entrepreneurs who support each other as they strive for success.