Another Year of Remarkable Impact
Typically, we wouldn’t want to repeat ourselves; however, we made a statement in last year’s Impact Report that we’re incredibly grateful and proud to be making again: This was our biggest year yet!
Rise’s 2023 fiscal year (FY23) was marked by unprecedented success and significant milestones. For the first time, we disbursed over 100 loans in a single year; we broke program application records, delivered more training sessions than ever, and secured our first federal funding.
While numerous statistics can showcase Rise’s impact, the ultimate measure lies in others’ success. For example, an October 2022 survey revealed that four out of five Rise clients are still in business after receiving a Rise loan, many of which were disbursed pre-pandemic. It’s evidence that our work is helping people build resilient businesses, transform their lives and make meaningful contributions to communities across Canada—especially in uncertain economic times.
We want to thank our esteemed donors, partners, dedicated staff, volunteers, and remarkable clients for making this impact possible. Our FY23 achievements signal a brighter future for Rise and for individuals with mental health and addiction challenges seeking empowerment through entrepreneurship.
Here’s to broken records and repeating ourselves again next year!
Chair, Rise Board of Directors
Need increased. Demand grew. So did we.
Rise’s success in FY23 wasn’t by sheer force of will, though we are a mighty organization. The reality is that people needed our programs more than ever.
Two things remained true of the socio-economic climate throughout FY23: Canadians continued to struggle with their mental health, and they were turning to entrepreneurship to navigate a changing economy. Past trends show that in times of recession and economic uncertainty, people turn to self-employment to support themselves.
Rise is uniquely positioned at this intersection of mental health and entrepreneurship.
In FY23, we saw a significant increase in program demand. For example, we experienced a 37% increase in applications to our Small Business Lending Program (vs. FY22), which marked continual year-over-year growth since 2020.
How did we respond? By increasing our number of active loans by 20% (vs. FY22), driving the total value of loans disbursed since inception past $3 million, and implementing 76% more training sessions than the year before. We also expanded the size of our team and the breadth of our program offering. But most importantly, our work continued to have a positive, tangible impact in clients’ lives.
4 in 5 Rise lending clients are still in business.
Kendra L. d’Eon
KLD Law | Winnipeg, MB
Small Business Lending Program
In 2016, Kendra d’Eon was in a motorcycle accident. Just months into her dream job as in-house counsel at an insurance company, everything changed.
“Overnight, I went from a confident litigator to someone who struggles daily with [post-concussion symptoms] and chronic pain,” she says.
Challenges like being unable to look at screens and inadequate accommodations made going back to a traditional workday impossible. She soon realized to keep practising law, she’d need a new approach. She began writing a plan for her own firm, focused on estate planning and Indigenous law. But going it alone is no small feat—especially running a new law firm while facing symptoms that vary daily. To help her manage, Kendra applied to the Small Business Lending Program.
“The loan I received through Rise … released some of that pressure and stress so I could focus on actually practising law.”
Deeply informed by her experiences, Kendra provides culturally sensitive, mindful legal services that consider each client’s unique challenges and needs.
“For me, [success] is about personal growth and doing something truly rewarding,” she says. “My disability no longer defines me. I am a lawyer, I am an entrepreneur, and I love what I do.”
Our ImpactHelping to Transform Lives
Throughout FY23, Rise delivered low-interest loans, high-impact training, mentorship, and other custom supports – all at record scale. We surpassed our goal of 100 loans disbursed. We also delivered 240 training sessions to help early-stage entrepreneurs build the skills they need to take the next step—which is important to us. We meet clients wherever they are on their entrepreneurial journey so we can help them progress through the stages of building a business. Over the years, that’s translated into one in three training clients going on to secure a Rise loan, which means that as clients’ needs change, our support changes too.
In FY23, “meeting clients where they are” also meant expanding programs to ensure women and gender-diverse communities can access inclusive support responsive to their unique experiences and identities.
Lending & Training in FY23A Snapshot of Success
Women+ Entrepreneurship Program Highlight
Introducing Innovative Supports for Women+ Entrepreneurs
In FY23, we launched the Women+ Entrepreneurship Program to empower diverse women, trans women and non-binary individuals (women+) with the skills and confidence to pursue self-employment.
Women have always been a key segment of Rise clientele. Alongside gender-diverse communities, they face unique barriers to entrepreneurship, all exacerbated by recent socio-economic upheaval. Accordingly, we’ve seen applications from women surge, more than doubling in the first year of the pandemic alone. With so many factors at play, it was time to act.
The Women+ Entrepreneurship Program, developed and piloted with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is trauma-informed and built on inclusive, decolonized and accessible feminist philosophy. It’s a safe space where women+ entrepreneurs work closely with their peers, expert facilitators and experienced mentors to learn business fundamentals, develop business plans and pursue their individual definitions of success.
After piloting the program in Ontario in early 2023, 80% of participants felt more confident taking their businesses forward. The strength of this ground-breaking program enabled us to secure Rise’s first-ever federal funding—$1.42 million from the Government of Canada through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) to develop French resources and expand nationally so the impact can be harnessed by women+ entrepreneurs nationwide!
Healing Journey Retreats | Toronto, ON
Women+ Entrepreneurship Program
A passionate globetrotter, Anna Li dreamed of opening a boutique hostel centred on travel and human connection. Unfortunately, the pandemic interrupted that dream. She says she felt “unfulfilled” in the corporate world, and after a decade, was burned-out, anxious and depressed—struggles that ultimately inspired her business, Healing Journey Retreats.
Drawing on her neuroscience background and workplace experience, Anna hosts science-driven mental wellness retreats to help professionals sustainably manage stress.
“As founder of a mental health business who also struggles with mental health, it’s important to practice what I preach,” she says.
In early 2023, Anna joined the Women+ Entrepreneurship Program, where she found a non-judgemental community to share her doubts and fears with, and learned crucial skills, like how to create a business plan—especially one considerate of her well-being.
“Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey and mental health struggles can feel the same, so I’m glad I found a support system through Rise.”
With her first retreat planned for Tulum, Mexico in early 2024, Anna says she has to remind herself that, like healing and mental wellness, success is a journey.
“I'm trying to build smaller benchmarks of success so I can allow myself to celebrate.”
Who Are Rise Clients?
Age of Clients
Where Our Clients Live
Rise clients live across Canada. In FY23, 62 clients lived in British Columbia, 29 in Alberta, 6 in Saskatchewan, 11 in Manitoba, 457 in Ontario, 8 in Quebec, 5 in New Brunswick, 18 in Nova Scotia, and 1 in Newfoundland & Labrador.
Inspiring Entrepreneurs Across Canada
Founder & Cosmetic Formulator, Liv’Ez Co.
Peer Supported Startup Program
Founder, The Holistic Growth Mentor
Peer Supported Startup Program
Xenia Osguedo Cruz
Co-founder, Amor De Madre
Small Business Lending Program
Xenia Osguedo Cruz
Owner, Elite Perfection Body Studio
Small Business Lending Program
Our CommunityCollaborating for Change
Our community is at the heart of all we do. That includes critical partnerships that help bring our programs to life and an invaluable, unstoppable force of volunteers who are the reason we can provide caring personalized support to entrepreneurs across Canada.
To strengthen our community in FY23, we focused on enhancing the programs and resources available to individuals who need our support.
Up with Women Partnership Highlight
Up With Women
Marshall Pitfield Youth Loan Fund Highlight
Marshall Pitfield Youth Loan Fund
In FY23 we were proud to launch our first named loan fund, the Marshall Pitfield Youth Loan Fund. Developed in partnership with the Savoy-Pitfield family in memory of their beloved son, brother and friend, the fund is enabling Rise to engage more youth, ages 16-34, in our Small Business Lending Program. It means more capital in Canada’s entrepreneurial landscape for young entrepreneurs, who also get access to our powerful wrap-around supports.
Thank you to the Savoy-Pitfield family for their generous commitment of $100,000 and to their relatives and friends who have collectively raised another $100,000 in support of aspiring young business owners nationwide. It is a true privilege to be a small part of Marshall’s legacy.
Investing in Those Who Invest in our Clients
Volunteers really do make our work and impact possible. Located across Canada, they provide our clients with bespoke support, whether as a member of our volunteer Loan Review Committee, as a group mentor in our training programs, or in a one-on-one mentoring relationship with a lending client. In FY23, Rise volunteers dedicated an estimated 2,655 hours of support to the impact of our programs and our clients’ success.
Because our volunteers invest so much, we’re committed to ensuring they have the resources and support they need to feel empowered in their roles.
We streamlined prospective volunteers’ introduction to Rise
We revolutionized our digital volunteer onboarding
We fostered connection & support
We founded an engaged new community
Lill Missy Searl
Provincial Coordinator of Nurturing Strong African Nova Scotian Families & Project Consultant at L Searl Virtual Consultant Services | Halifax, NS
Volunteer Loan Review Committee Member
When Lill Missy Searl was approached about becoming a volunteer member of the Rise Loan Review Committee (LRC), she did her due diligence.
“I did some research and fell in love with [Rise’s mission],” she says. “As a person with mental health challenges, I really wanted to be a part of something so powerful.”
In 2021, she joined the LRC as one of the experienced professionals who adjudicate Rise loan applications.
“It’s really fun to discuss applications [with LRC] … I get so much satisfaction from getting to know more about the ‘person’ put in front of us.”
Lill says she celebrates every loan approved, but success is also about honesty. When an application gets sent back for more work, she loves to see it resubmitted and to know that the client has learned and grown from the LRC’s suggestions.
Lill is learning and growing too.
“I’m more confident with each meeting … [and] the opportunity to learn from other LRC members has been amazing.”
A business owner and advocate, Lill is an inspiration in her own right.
“As a Black Neurodiverse woman, I love to share my story and let people know that they too can be an entrepreneur.”
Product Manager, Fujifilm Canada | Toronto, ON
After building his life and a formidable career in Canada, Efrain Navarro wanted to find an opportunity to reinvest his skills and experience in the community.
“I thought Rise would be a great way to give back and help others who might need some business advice and a little motivation to keep going,” he says.
A Rise volunteer since 2020, he’s worked as both a Peer Supported Startup Program group mentor and, most recently, as a one-on-one mentor to a client of the Small Business Lending Program—an experience he’s valued deeply.
“I loved working with [my mentee], and I was happy to give her some advice,” Efrain says. “She has a great vision for her company. I think she knows what is required to succeed and scale her business … and I know that she won’t give up.”
As he’s watched his mentee achieve business milestones, Efrain says he’s been inspired by her focus and determination.
“I’ve just loved my experience as a mentor, and I strongly encourage others to try it.”
Thank You to Our Board for its Steadfast Leadership
Lori Spadorcia, Chair Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, Partnerships, and Chief Strategy Officer, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
Andrew Macdonald, Co-Chair, Fundraising CommitteeSenior Vice President, Mobility & Business Operations, Uber
Boafoa Kwamena, Secretary and Chair of Governance & Nominating CommitteeDirector, Project Implementation Branch, Ministry of Infrastructure
Nikki Moffat, Treasurer, Chair, Finance, Audit & Risk Committee CHRO & EVP Corporate Services, BCE and Bell
Philippe Savoy, Co-Chair, Fundraising Committee VP Corporate Sales Canada, Corpay
Raksha Manaktala Bhayana, Director CEO, Bhayana Family Foundation
Tamara Bahry, Director Tamara Bahry Photography and CEO Bahry Foundation
Tassan Sung, Director Chair, Nicola Wealth Women's LEAD &Community Engagement and Donor Relations Specialist
Tom Little, Director Corporate Director, CPA, ICD.D
Our CommunityBuilding on Success
It’s wonderful to be able to repeat “best year yet” time and again, but with that statement comes an implicit commitment to ensuring we can sustain our programs and our impact over the long term to benefit our clients’ success.
In FY23, we grew our revenue by 24%—a giant leap forward that we were able to achieve through building new partnerships and attracting new donors who support our mission. In October, we held our inaugural fundraising event in British Columbia, Rise’s largest market after Ontario. Our generous guests donated more than $220,000. We also continued to build our leadership giving program, Rise Launch. Aimed at securing multi-year commitments from business and philanthropic leaders nationwide, our Launch Investors are a source of reliable income that empowers us to confidently strategize for our next “best year yet.”
Our already deep ties to Balsam Foundation deepened in FY23 when it made a new $450,000 commitment to Rise ($150,000 annually over three years). Balsam Foundation has long provided Rise with exceptional, transformative support, and this new investment is no exception. Earmarked to support the Small Business Lending Program, these funds are enabling us to build organizational capacity, strengthen and expand our client supports, and enhance our ability to respond to increasing applications.
A deeply valued partner, we would like to sincerely thank Balsam Foundation for its enduring support.
Our Capacity to Grow
To achieve sustainability we need to be preparing for tomorrow’s ambitions today. Part of building a sustainable future means increasing internal capacity and technological efficiencies to better support clients and alumni and meet growing demand.
In FY23, we consolidated the leadership of our programs team; and in this age of remote work, we diversified where we’re “based,” with permanent full-time staff now in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland. We also focused on leveraging technology to help us manage rising program demand. Early on, we recognized that we were on pace to break application records and needed new ways to streamline how we process an individual’s first interactions with Rise. For example, we introduced a Program Navigator on our website—a self-directed quiz to help aspiring clients determine which programs they’re eligible for. Further, we reinvented our Idea Generator to give early-stage entrepreneurs a space for virtually-guided brainstorming so they can identify and develop their business ideas before submitting an application. We also began implementing virtual information sessions to help us reach maximum prospective lending clients while using minimal resources.
Mental Health & Entrepreneurship Making National NewsBell Let's Talk Video Feature
Recognizing the People Making the ImpactCelebrating our Clients & Volunteers
Every year, we host the Rotman Family Entrepreneurship Awards to celebrate the achievements of our clients and volunteers and to share their impact with the broader Rise community. In 2022, we proudly introduced the Dave Richardson Champion Award to honour a community member who demonstrates a commitment to advancing Rise’s mission. The recipient must embody the spirit of openness and philanthropy personified by Dave—a long-time supporter who has been pivotal to our growth. We presented the inaugural champion award to Martin Traub-Werner.
Awards were also presented to three of our most inspiring and resilient clients and one standout volunteer.
Andria Barrett, Rotman Family Entrepreneur of the Year
“Rise was such a positive experience for me that helped me set the foundation to get started … I’m proud that [as an entrepreneur] I’ve been able to give people the opportunity to work and share their message.”
Michelle Tasa, Dr. Paul Garfinkel Resilience Award
“The loan from Rise literally sustained me … I want to be known as a businessperson who has a mental illness because I think the more we’re open about it, the less stigma we’re going to have.”
Reham Teama, Bell Let’s Talk Start-up Award
“Without Rise, my first book would never have been published. I needed the loan, and I used every dollar. [It] was a great contribution to get me started … and I feel like my hard work is paying off.”
Shaun Pingitore, Scotiabank Volunteer of the Year Award
“When mentees leave calls with me visibly energized to tackle whatever business problem they’re facing, that’s the most satisfying feeling. Especially because I’ve been on the other end of it, hearing something that inspires me to persevere.”
Martin Traub-Werner, Dave Richardson Champion Award
“People think being an entrepreneur is glamorous — but no, it’s hard. The fact that there is an organization [like Rise] that not only provides money but also provides some infrastructure and business support is massively important.”
To Our Donors, Thank You!
Our work is made possible thanks to the generous support of a community of like-minded funders, partners and donors. Every dollar you give has a meaningful impact in clients' lives.
Rise By The Numbers
As demand for our programs grows, Rise continues to explore new partnerships and strategies that can enable us to effectively reach and empower more entrepreneurs across Canada.