Québec City-based lending group Evol has received $9.47 million in funding from Canadian Economic Development (CED) to support Québec entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.

The federally-backed funding will be put towards two separate projects. An initial non-repayable amount of $4,475,800 will be spent by Evol to provide ongoing mentoring to businesses that have a diverse clientele, as well as a sustainable development component.

A second repayable contribution of $5,000,000 will be used to provide early-stage financing to entrepreneurs from under-represented groups in Québec’s economy.

Evol helps Québec businesses with diverse ownership by providing financing and support.

Founded by a group of entrepreneurs in 1995, Evol helps Québec businesses with diverse ownership by providing financing and support in all stages of their development. Since its founding, Evol claims to have granted $31 million in financing to women-owned SMEs and helped create over 6,000 jobs with over 1,200 companies.

Evol’s former CEO Sévrine Labelle was recently named the managing director of BDC’s new Thrive Lab, a result of its recent $500 million investment in women-led companies.

The funds for Evol have been granted under the Jobs and Growth Fund (JGF) and the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) program. The JGF targets businesses and economic organizations to help them prepare local economies for sustainable growth, and the REGI program helps the development of Québec entrepreneurs as well as regional economic stakeholders.

In past years, Québec has taken an adversarial stance on diversity and inclusion within the province. In 2020, Premier François Legault said he does not believe systemic racism exists in Québec, despite recent reports on its existence within the province’s police force.

The Legault government also came under fire in late 2022 for insisting Québec couldn’t accept more than 50,000 immigrants per year, and requiring them to be French-speaking. So it was all the more salient when the minister responsible for CED, Pascale St. Onge, said Evol’s funding will help “foster inclusion and diversity” in the province.

With SMEs accounting for 99.7 percent of Québec’s businesses and 50 percent of its GDP, Evol’s funding and mentoring has the potential to boost the province’s economy for future generations. CED is a government regional development agency (RDA) that provides assistance to enterprises, communities and the organizations through funding and mentoring. It also incorporates equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) practices into their operations.

Diverse businesses are 70 percent more likely to break into new markets than organizations that do not recruit or actively support talent from under-represented groups, according to a 2013 Harvard study. As well, their average innovation-generated revenues are almost twice as high.

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