WNBA Launches Platform in Partnership to Support Canadian Female Entrepreneurs [Interviews]


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The Women’s National Basketball Association has launched a new platform with Mastercard to support Canadian female entrepreneurs ahead of the league’s first game in Canada.

WNBA Goods presented by Mastercard” is a new retail platform designed to promote and empower Canadian female entrepreneurs as 10 women-led or owned Canadian small businesses have a range of original, limited-edition WNBA merchandise ahead of the sold-out WNBA Canada Game presented by Tangerine, featuring the Chicago Sky and the Minnesota Lynx playing a pre-season game on Saturday, May 13 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

“The WNBA Canada Game presented by Tangerine will not only mark a historic moment for women’s sports in Canada, but also presents an opportunity to showcase and celebrate successful women across so many different industries,” said NBA Canada Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Leah MacNab. “This program unites talented female entrepreneurs and offers WNBA fans new and unique Canadian merchandise.

Scents by Fay (Image: WNBA)
Image: wnbacanadagame.com

“We were incredibly thrilled to bring the first WNBA game to Canada. A big part of the values behind the WNBA are around women’s empowerment and sort of hero-ing women athletes and also entrepreneurs. It made sense to partner with Mastercard because they’re already deeply committed to equal access for women and they recognize the impact this game will have on the professional sports landscape but also on this ability to draw attention to small women-led businesses in Canada.

Leah MacNab

“We are excited about this platform because it essentially aggregates a handful of really, really different businesses that are offering probably our widest selection of both price point and product categories that we’ve ever put forward in Canada. Every consumer that we drive to that micro site is actually going to transact on the individual businesses’ platforms and the hope is they will add new customers for life. We’re hoping to get repeat customers for these businesses and just sort of use the megaphone of our brand to make people aware of them.” 

The full range of products is available at WNBACanadaGame.com and can be purchased through each retailer’s website. Prices for the collection range from $9 to $495 CAD, and a portion of proceeds from the sales of all items will be donated to the Canada Basketball Foundation (CBF). 

Sasha Krstic

“Mastercard is thrilled to help bring this inaugural game to Canadian fans,” said Mastercard Canada President, Sasha Krstic.  “We’re deeply committed to enabling equal access for all girls and women to pursue their dreams. As an official partner of the WNBA Canada game and presenting partner of WNBA Goods, we’re celebrating the historical impact this will have on women’s professional sports and proudly continuing our support of women-owned small businesses in Canada.”

The WNBA Canada Game will also air live in Canada on Sportsnet and TSN, and in the U.S. on WNBA League Pass.

Rashelle (Image: WNBA)

For more information, fans in Canada can follow the NBA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and the WNBA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.  Official WNBA merchandise is available at the NBA Store in Canada at NBAStore.ca.

The game will draw more than 19,000 people in attendance.

“I’ve been at the league 18 years next week and in that time every single one of our business metrics has just skyrocketed upwards. Our viewership this year on U.S. matchups, games that don’t involve the Raptors, are up over 20 per cent year over year. Raptors’ ratings have been up over 60 per cent over the last four years. So Raptors have grown even more quickly,” said McNab.

“But to see the other teams grow is really impressive for us as well and that is a big part of our mission to grow the entire ecosystem of basketball. At the youngest levels we have grassroots participation starting to comeback. It was really affected during the pandemic when gyms couldn’t be open to the public. We now almost have the same number of kids. Pre-pandemic we had 20,000 kids in our Junior NBA program. We’re getting closer to that number this year and I think we will achieve it next season.”

Sponsorship has also grown for both the NBA and WNBA.

Stacie Cohen, Senior Director, Branded Attractions at the NBA, said the overall NBA fan base is enormous, approaching about one billion fans around the world. 

Stacie Cohen

“But less than one per cent ever get to go to an NBA game. So for us we wanted to create unique touch points from our brand for those who don’t have access to the sport. In doing so, we looked at all our different types of fans,” she said. “There are so many segments of fans . . . There’s this large fan base that truly are in it for the culture and celebrity of the NBA, getting as close to the players as possible, as close to their lifestyle.

“That’s really where the NBA Courtside Restaurant came to be. Bringing people into the community of the NBA.

“Retail as an attraction is not only a pretty great revenue driver but it also delivers on fan expectations.”

NBA Courtside Restaurant in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
NBA Courtside Restaurant in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Cohen said the NBA celebrates community.

“I think NBA fans are pretty solid fans. It’s not a brand that you come in and out of. Representing their favourite team or their favourite player really just representing the community affiliation with the NBA is a part of how our fans express themselves,” she said.

“The NBA has really infiltrated culture. For us, we just don’t see it as a sport. We see it as an impact on culture and that’s why when we created the restaurant it really was a statement of culture of the NBA and not just the sport.”

Below is an overview of the 10 women-owned Canadian small businesses and their products, participating in the new retail platform:

  • BARBAYS: Hair scrunchies featuring the WNBA logo

Born out of a demand for high-quality scrunchies and hair accessories, founder Adrienne Decaire’s vision is to build Barbays into a fashion-forward Canadian brand while maintaining small-town family values.

  • CUP OF TÉ: Loose-leaf WNBA-themed tea and tea accessories

Driven to overcome challenges from an accident that left her paralyzed, founder and owner Taylor Lindsay-Noel launched Cup of Té with the goal of providing the world’s finest loose leaf organic teas and teaware.

  • MAKEWAY: “It’s Just Basketball” sweatshirt and sweatpants 

Co-founded by Shelby Weaver and Abby Albino, both long-standing members of Toronto’s basketball community, Makeway is Canada’s only standalone women’s sneaker and streetwear boutique.

Cup of Te (Image: WNBA)
  • MOOD UNKWN: Hydrating under-eye masks

Founded by Raman Gidda in the midst of the pandemic, Mood Unkwn was created to emphasize the importance of daily self-care.  Their products were made for all genders and skin types and designed to suit any lifestyle.

  • NAKED BEAUTY BAR: WNBA logo nail decals

NAKED owners and sisters Julia and Gabrielle Bautista built a nail shop in downtown Toronto designed to redefine the self-care experience, with community-building at its core. NAKED has also expanded into an eponymous skincare and lifestyle product line to fit its community’s needs.

  • RASHELLE: Hand-pulled rugs featuring the WNBA logo

Rashelle Campbell (she/her) is a Nehiyaw Iskwew multidisciplinary designer who exemplifies a diverse standard of beauty, producing limited-edition, small batch rugs.  She believes in embracing thoughtful handmade slow work that has notes of nostalgia and joy.

  • SANTA ISLA: Hand-beaded jewelry featuring WNBA imagery  

Santa Isla’s owner Jess Sanchez works in partnership with Embera Chami artisans of Colombia to make playful jewelry that sparks joy, while honoring Embera’s weaving practices and cultural significance.

Tonic Blooms (Image: WNBA)
  • SCENTS BY FAY: Aromatic Candles featuring the WNBA logo

Founded by Furhana Glass-Smith, Scents by Fay is a hobby-turned-business born out of the pandemic, using clean, natural ingredients to create unique candles and handcrafted home décor pieces.

  • THE GIVE & GROW: Planters made out of Official Wilson® WNBA Balls

Owned & operated by Olivia Ho, The Give and Grow is a women-led initiative developed with one purpose: growth.  Their one-of-a-kind basketball planters combine a passion for sports and community.

  • TONIC BLOOMS: On-demand florist showcasing a WNBA-themed bouquet

Co-owned by Corrie Pollock, Tonic Blooms is Toronto’s on-demand florist, offering curated bouquet designs and indoor plants through a seamless delivery experience in as little as two hours.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.


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