Last year we planted the seed, and now we are starting to see it bloom. The changing season marked the evolution from the research phase to the implementation phase of the Women’s Economic Advancement Project at Innovation Guelph. After spending the better part of the past year conducting focus groups and consulting with community members and business leaders, we’re moving on to implementing our program to cultivate female entrepreneurship in Guelph and Wellington County. This transition presented the perfect opportunity to rethink our brand, and how to best represent the work we are doing in the Guelph community.

We set off on a journey to rename and re-brand our project. We engaged with the team at Pearl Street Communications, a community-oriented marketing firm based in Elora, to create something new. Curt Hammond and his team of innovators were amazing: they held a focus-group with our main community partners to distill the real essence of the project. Men and women shared their stories of getting involved: from connecting with people they never would have otherwise met, to starting new professional ventures as a result of their participation. What we learned from this exercise was clear: this is a community project, with different branches popping up all over the region as a result of growing connections. We are engaging women and men from all walks of life in a common purpose: to make our community prosper by fostering entrepreneurship among women.

The Rhyze Project is inspired by the rhizome, a root system that some plants – like lilies, trilliums and mint – use to grow. While the roots of most plants generally point downward, the rhizome grows horizontally underground. The rhizome sends shoots up from its nodes, growing what appear to be many separate plants. These seemingly unrelated individual plants are actually all connected through a system that’s not immediate visible to the eye. They are self-propagating, as buds that forms at the joints produce more flowers. Rhizomes are resilient and determined: just like women.

The Rhyze Project is about empowering women and cultivating entrepreneurial spirit. We are engaging women at all levels of entrepreneurship, whether they are starting their own business or are intrapreneurial. Women from the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) sector, rural areas, in career or life transition and women who have immigrated to Canada have been at the core of the project so far, and will participate in peer mentoring circles in the fall.

The seeds are in the ground. As more partners continue to join and community members engage,The Rhyze Project will be cultivating leaders and creating programs across the region. The rhizome is spreading; female entrepreneurship is growing.

To learn more about The Rhyze Project and how you can get involved, visit The Rhyze Project.