Women Startup Network

The Women Startup Network (WSN) mission is to enable women-led startups. We guide them to success through powerful leadership training and mentoring.

This unique program is designed to foster an entrepreneurial mind-set in women in Engineering and in Computer Science so that they create a positive societal impact.

Participate in the program

un mentor

Our students learn more about entrepreneurship and leadership through a facilitated peer mentorship program,while getting course credit. Mentors will help develop your entrepreneurial competencies and will assist you with your business development plan.

Note that this course is open to all university students.

  • Develop your entrepreneurial skills.
  • Learn what it takes to create your own company.
  • Build a network of women involved in Engineering, Computer Science and Business.
  • Take your business idea to the next level.
  • Contribute to compelling projects.

WSN Mentees are students at the University of Ottawa who:

  • Have a business idea and would like to develop it further
  • OR are looking for a business idea
  • AND/OR would like to join a community of women who are working on existing businesses. 

Learn more about our existing projects.

Throughout the school year, mentees will participate in weekly training and mentoring sessions to develop their entrepreneurship, leadership, and business skills. They will work with Mentors and other students on entrepreneurial projects throughout the course of the school year (two semesters). They will attain 3 course credits, granted at the end of the second semester.

  • Lectures are 3 hours/week
  • In-class components include 1.5 hours of Theory and 1.5 hours of Business Application
  • Course spans 2 semesters, 24 weeks
  • Course credit is granted at the end of the second semester
  • 120 hours over 2 semesters.

View the course outline.

How to apply:

Fill out the form.

See the mentee training course outline.


Our mentors go through a rigorous entrepreneurial training program over the summer. These Mentors then work with Mentees as part of the WSN throughout the following school year.

WSN Mentors have a passion for business and strive to make a difference. We select Mentors based on a competitive process.

Student Mentors are trained in the summer to work with Mentees the following year.

Summer training consists of:

  • Entrepreneurship: idea generation, elevator pitches, business models, financing, sales and marketing, entrepreneurial behaviors
  • Mentorship: role of the mentor, expectations for the program and the mentor/mentee relationship, building trust, helping mentees develop their full potential
  • Business Skills: self-awareness, communication skills, male and female styles of communication and their use within different contexts and leadership skills.

Throughout the school year, Mentors work with Mentees on entrepreneurial projects and participate in weekly mentoring/training sessions to complete 3 course credits. Mentors also develop their leadership skills and network through creative initiatives of their choice (e.g., organizing events, community-based activities).

Application to become a mentor have been closed. All mentors have been selected for 2016-2017.

See the  mentor training course outline.

Student projects


Acquire the basic skills to “be an entrepreneur”

The program “has made me look at myself as an entrepreneur! How to think and how to start my own business– I think that is my main takeaway!!The fact that this program has achieved that is a huge deal.”
“It changed how I think. This type of competency you can use anywhere.”

Get involved in the community

“There was a lot of interaction. And I think that when it comes to this topic in particular, there is a lot learned in person, but especially during interaction.”
“It helped me know more about the women in engineering, even though they are not in my program. I enjoyed this aspect! Sometimes when I think of the idea of not ‘fighting’ alone – this is very important!”

Improve your networking skills

“Before I joined this program, my interpersonal skills were  so so! I would say, not natural. It came very frozen, like a frozen person talking with a stranger. Now it has changed.”
“Very scary! But good.”
“Very good! We had to get out there and connect with a lot of people.”

Launch your venture

“This never would have happened without WSN and the various entrepreneurship competitions.”

Meet the team

Catherine Mavriplis

Catherine Mavriplis is a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Ottawa. She currently holds the NSERC / Pratt & Whitney Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, which promotes the participation and advancement of women and girls in all fields of science and engineering for the province of Ontario. She has a special interest in developing leadership for women in these professions both at the university and beyond: in industry, government and startups. Her Chair program has been strengthened by interdisciplinary research on women in communications, education, sociology and history. She is the co-author and co-editor of FORWARD to Professorship in STEM: Inclusive Faculty Development Strategies That Work. Her entrepreneurship experience started young in high school where she ran a snack bar that competed too well with the school cafeteria.

Hanan Anis

Hanan Anis is a professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Ottawa. She holds the NSERC chair In Entrepreneurial Engineering Design and is also the coordinator of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Faculty of Engineering. Her passion is to help students develop an entrepreneurial mind set and start successful businesses. She has been teaching entrepreneurship, design and innovation for many years. Prior to joining the university, she was the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Ceyba, an optical long-haul networking company that employed 250 people at its peak.

    Rubina Lakhani

    Rubina is currently enrolled in the PhD Program in the Electronic Business program. Her research involves healthcare, security and cloud computing.  Rubina came to the PhD Program with over 25 years of industry experience.  She has been part of two successful startups, and has work experience in large and mid-size corporations.  Her career has spanned the full cycle of business deployment - from RFP and grant proposal writing to product creation and conception, engineering design and development, sales and marketing.  She also has a wide range of domain expertise including design and manufacture of power engineering hardware, control systems and renewable energy.  At her time at Nortel, Bell Northern Research, Stentor and Bell Canada, she worked as a planner, researcher and product manager of fiber optic and access networks.  Rubina has significant experience in Service Management of Telco networks and has contributed to TeleManagement Forum standards.   Rubina is a Professional Engineer and a Senior Member of the IEEE.

    Catherine Elliott

    Catherine Elliott is a professor in the Telfer School of Management where she teaches Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management. Her research and teaching focus on gender influences in entrepreneurship: entrepreneurial identity, self-efficacy, and gender influences in mentoring and entrepreneurial learning. She is the co-author of Feminine Capital. Unlocking the power of women entrepreneurs, with Barbara Orser.


    Startup Canada. Women Entrepreneurship Fund

    Startup Canada is the voice of Canada’s grassroots entrepreneurship movement.

    Startup Ottawa. Ottawa Women’s Business Network

    Startup Ottawa is a place for budding and seasoned entrepreneurs alike to gather, learn from each other and get access to invaluable resources, and programming. Our mission is to “Promote, Provide, & Connect” the startup businesses in Ottawa. We are entrepreneur-led and committed to the long-term success and sustainability of our community.  Startup Ottawa regularly holds networking & workshop events, and provides insights as to how best to get your business off the ground in Ottawa.

    Cisco. Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle

    Cisco Canada is proud to launch the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle to empower women leading small and medium businesses in Canada by providing the resources, training, and IT solutions they need in order to build capacity and accelerate growth.

    Intuit QuickBooks – Small Business Center

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    Women’s Business Network

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    Government of Canada. Canada Business Network.  Women Entrepreneurs

    Are you a woman business owner or a woman who is thinking of becoming an entrepreneur? If so, this page can help you find information to start, manage and grow your business. You will also find information and links to programs and business support organizations specifically for women entrepreneurs.

    Entrepreneur. Women Entrepreneurs

    A wealth of information on various topics.

    Invest Ottawa. Ottawa’s Ecosystem of Female Entrepreneurs

    Invest Ottawa delivers collaborative economic development initiatives that increase entrepreneurial momentum, wealth, and jobs in the city of Ottawa.

    Women Entrepreneurs Meetups in Ottawa

    Women’s Enterprise Organization of Canada

    We lead the way to achieve excellence in the provision of services by women’s enterprise organizations.

    Makerspaces in Ottawa

    YouTube Channel. Young Female Entrepreneurs

    Government of Canada. The Canadian Trade Commissioners Service.  Products and Services for Women Entrepreneurs.

    The Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) program offers products and services to assist export-ready and export-active Canadian woman-owned businesses achieve international success.

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