She’s Next Grant Aids The Next Generation Of Women Entrepreneurs

April 5, 2024

Recently Visa Canada announced the recipients of its She’s Next Grant Program. Aiming to uplift women-owned small businesses, the program awards 10 winners a $10,000 CAD grant and access to an accelerated mentorship program through York University’s YSpace. To date, the program has awarded $600,000 CAD to women-owned small businesses and countless hours of mentorship to women entrepreneurs across Canada. We chatted with one of this year’s recipients, CAYA Health Centre, to learn more. —Noa Nichol

Hi! Please tell us a bit about yourselves to start. 

We are Dr. Veronica Li and Stephanie Dang, the founders of CAYA, also known as Come As You Are Health Centre. Veronica is a Registered Psychologist and Stephanie is a Registered Dietitian. Our journey with CAYA began after years of supporting our own clients and hearing countless stories of women, trans, and non-binary individuals feeling dismissed, invalidated, and their concerns falling through the cracks of the health system. Not only did we hear these narratives from our clients but also the people around us in our daily lives. We started CAYA to address the gap and provide care to those who have historically been neglected in healthcare.

When and why did you launch CAYA? What niche were/are you aiming to fill?  

Women, racialized people, and individuals with 2SLGBTQIA+ identities experience an overall lower quality of healthcare, face barriers to accessing services, and worse health outcomes than the general population. This issue of neglect in healthcare is not just a theoretical concern but one that is deeply ingrained in our experiences as healthcare professionals.
CAYA Health Centre is the result of our shared vision to create a space that actively addresses these disparities. After three years of planning, we opened our doors in April 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Our vision was to create a space where people could access safe health care and feel respected regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sex, presentation, or sexual orientation. We envision a future where inclusive, supportive, equitable, and informed care are the standard in all health practices.

What products/services do you currently offer, and what makes them unique? 

There are three elements that we focused on when starting the clinic. The first was having medical services, which are typically isolated from other allied health fields, combined with an allied health team. This meant that our patients and clients could see all their health practitioners in one place. Seeking healthcare can feel intimidating and we didn’t want to add to that. Historically, the caretaking and household management duties fell to the responsibility of women. These traditional gender roles and societal expectations contribute to a system where women’s needs fall to the bottom of the priority list. By having practitioners all in one place, we try to make it convenient for patients and clients to see the practitioners they need. The second aspect that sets us apart is that our clinic is focused specifically on women, trans, and non-binary individuals. Our approach is trauma-informed, weight-neutral, and gender-affirming. These principles are evident right when you walk through the doors and when you work with our team. We don’t look like a traditional medical clinic and this is designed intentionally. For some folks, entering a medical clinic already prompts anxiety. We tried to make our space as comfortable as possible, where we have warm colours, lighting, large and accessible rooms, and a gender-neutral washroom. Lastly, our team is what sets us apart. Our team is trained in evidence-based practice and includes medical doctors, psychologists, clinical counsellors, dietitians, pelvic floor physiotherapists, physiotherapists, and massage therapists. We prioritize offering healthcare that is safe, respectful, and honours individual experiences.

Congrats on being one of 10 recipients of the Visa She’s Next Grant Program! Why is being a recipient of this grant important to you, and what does it mean for your business success? 

Thank you very much! We are so excited and honoured to be one of the recipients of the Visa She’s Next Grant Program. We are grateful to be selected amongst the other incredible women entrepreneurs and to be able to connect with others who are going through a similar journey. For us, CAYA’s significance goes beyond being a business but it also represents a commitment to addressing healthcare disparities. As two women of colour, the importance of representation and inclusivity in leadership and healthcare is crucial. We hope with the added support and awareness through the Visa She’s Next Grant Program, we can continue to grow CAYA and spread the word about our clinic. We hope to increase access and that CAYA symbolizes a space where individuals from diverse backgrounds find healthcare providers who understand their unique experiences.

What have been some of the key milestones in your career thus far? 

Our biggest milestone thus far is opening our doors on April 11, 2023. We are one of the first medical and multidisciplinary allied health clinics in British Columbia whose services are tailored for all women, trans, and non-binary individuals. We had three years of conversation and planning prior to opening and seeing our vision come to life is still very surreal. Hearing client and patient feedback is probably the most rewarding part of opening CAYA!

What are your business plans for the future? 

We are excited to watch CAYA grow, and the support we’re receiving from the She’s Next Grant Program is critical to our continued growth. We would love to be able to increase our footprint to serve more patients and clients throughout British Columbia. When we started the clinic, we felt lost and alone. We relied heavily on our community to encourage us and have met some great support along the way. In future, we would love to offer mentorship to people who want to create a medical and allied health clinic to help address the gender gap, because we hope this level of care becomes the standard in healthcare. We may be the first, but we do not want to be the last. We want to encourage other clinic owners to join us in addressing the healthcare gap.

Top three pieces of advice for young women entrepreneurs just getting started, or dreaming of starting their own biz? 

Starting a business is challenging and can be really isolating. We are so grateful that we not only had each other but a supportive community encouraging us along the way. This next chapter includes support from the Visa She’s Next Grant Program where we’ll not only receive $10,000 in financial support but also access to an accelerated mentorship program through York University’s YSpace. We’re excited for our community to grow through this opportunity and meet other women entrepreneurs! Our top three pieces of advice: 1) Ask for help and surround yourself with people who support and encourage you. It is so natural to feel scared or discouraged, but the people around you can be your biggest cheerleaders and make a big difference! 2) Be prepared to live and breathe your business. Starting a business takes sacrifice and commitment. It’s important to acknowledge that your life will likely look different and priorities need to be shifted, and simultaneously make room to take care of yourself too. In the beginning, you are your business and your business is you. It is crucial to take care of both! 3) Lastly, know your numbers inside and out (or hire someone who can do this for your business). Knowing where and how you are using your financial resources can help you feel more secure and support your business in thriving.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


get social


get more out of


Want the best, curated headlines and trends on the fly?

get more out of vita

Sign up for one, or sign up for all!