By Nicole Di Tomasso
In Q4 2021, DoorDash launched its Entrepreneurship & Access (E&A) programs in Canada to offer support to small businesses owned by under-represented groups, including women, immigrants and people of colour.
The E&A programs focus on empowering local businesses in two primary ways. The first is through consumer-platform amplification. “We use a searchable format and tag businesses in a certain way so consumers can easily search and identify businesses using key words, such as women-owned kitchens,” says Shilpa Arora, general manager at DoorDash Canada.
The second is through a free Restaurants Canada membership, which provides access to educational resources, group-buying discounts, health insurance and more. “This membership is important not just from a DoorDash perspective, but an overall foodservice industry health perspective,” says Arora. “It’s a great addition to the knowledge and amplification that DoorDash can offer to our merchant community through our platform.”
So far, roughly 150 businesses have signed up for the E&A programs. The programs have proven to be beneficial especially during the pandemic as businesses seek out additional support to remain afloat.
“As a business woman who owns multiple businesses, it’s important to feel represented and supported by our partners like DoorDash,” says Kristin Finley, co-owner of Eva’s Original Chimneys, Guerilla Burger and Happy Taco. “Their platform and programs, such as the E&A programs, have provided me and my family with so much support to continue achieving our goals, from marketing materials to expanding our customer base. DoorDash has been a huge reason we’ve been able to keep the lights on throughout this pandemic.”
Currently, DoorDash is working to make this program visible, and the benefits along with it, by reaching out to potential merchant partners that could benefit from enrolling in the programs. Recently, DoorDash reiterated its message in an International Women’s Day panel discussion, as part of its Made by Women initiative, on championing women leaders and entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry. Speakers included Arora and Finley, as well as the Honourable Jane McKenna, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues and the Honourable Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.
Additional DoorDash initiatives in support of businesses owned by under-represented communities include its Black Food Energy campaign and Made For This docuseries featuring Toronto Raptor Fred Vanvleet. DoorDash has also pledged $200 million in relief grants over five years as part of its Main Street Strong program. The company has already provided two rounds of grants to small businesses in Canada, as well as the U.S.
Arora immigrated to Canada from India about 15 years ago. As she reflects on her personal journey, Arora says “immigrants continue to face challenges in the workplace. They don’t have the access to the same networks and it’s difficult to fit in and find your voice. There’s a lot of work needed to make visible minorities more visible, and that really stuck with me through my journey. It’s so important to ask for help and seek out programs like E&A to help your business succeed.”
Arora continues, “I can confidently say that DoorDash is the most authentic and well-represented group of people that I’ve had the privilege to work with. We have to mirror the communities that we are here to serve. It’s not just about who we hire, it’s about how we change the narrative to promote equity, diversity and inclusion, both internally at DoorDash and externally with the communities and audiences we engage with.”
For budding entrepreneurs who feel as if they don’t belong and don’t have the skills or knowledge needed to assume leadership roles, Arora offers a piece of advice: “Own your experiences because that’s what makes you a leader. Part of being leader is having the courage to make good decisions and stand up for your team, but there’s also having the courage to be vulnerable. Recognizing that helps you show up more authentically.”
To sign up for DoorDash’s E&A Programs, click here.