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Powell River small businesses receive kickstart

Program provides tools for budding entrepreneurs
James Brotchie
ASPIRING ENTREPRENEUR: Hoping to use shipping containers as affordable housing units for first nations across Canada, James Brotchie of Port Hardy recently attended a business and entrepreneurship training program. Contributed photo

Encouraging small businesses and attracting entrepreneurs has been identified as a key to transitioning Powell River’s economy and an upcoming workshop will do just that.

Beginning May 30 and contuining until June 10, Canadian Centre for Aboriginal Entrepreneurship chief executive officer Bruce Lacroix will be in Powell River conducting a workshop about a program for people who want to start a small business.

“Powell River has a lot of the attributes that draw people,” said Lacroix, “first of all, for lifestyle, then once they are living here comes the question, ‘What am I going to do to live here?’”

Business and Entrepreneurship Skills Training (BEST), the program promoted by Lacroix, is sponsored by BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour.

“You have a fairly large group of people coming into the area for the lifestyle and they say, ‘I need to start myself a small business,’” said Lacroix. “This is a free program that helps potential entrepreneurs start their own small businesses.”

According to Lacroix, the intensive course requires a two-week commitment because it takes time to learn how to run a small business. Enrolment is capped at 20 people and includes eligibility requirements.

Participants must either be between 18 and 29 years of age, self-identify as having a disability, or be an aboriginal person of any age. Participants cannot be collecting employment insurance or be working more than 20 hours per week.

According to Scott Randolph, City of Powell River manager of economic development, entrepreneurs are important in transitioning from the single-resource-extraction industry the city has relied on since its founding.

“It provides employment, as well as new revenues in the community,” said Randolph. “Small business is the largest employer in any rural community. With Live and Invest, the Powell River resident-attraction campaign, we have a couple of demographic groups we key on, including entrepreneurs.”

In Campbell River, Rachel Wiley runs a food truck called Seabreeze Take Out. She already had the truck, she said, and took the BEST program twice, because she was unsure which direction she wanted her business to go in.

“We were looking at ways to grow and expand our business, getting a business plan and making an informed business decision,” said Wiley. Her business is now “doing really well,” she said.

Lacroix said all a person needs to start a business is willingness. “You don’t need to have studied anything in particular, you just need a bit of street smarts, math skills and some motivation. That’s really all you need to start a business.”

Lacroix said the BEST program provides practical tools. Participants receive an evaluation of their small-business idea and suggestions related to market research, competitive advantage, marketing, legal requirements, taxation, hiring, insurance and source funding.

Over the past 12 years, Lacroix has taken BEST to more than 100 communities in BC; more than 2,000 people have graduated.

Lacroix said he has identified three general groups of people who enrol: the curious; the ones who think they have a solid idea and want to turn it into a business; and a third group who are dabbling in business legitimately, or in the underground economy, and need more help in particular areas, such as marketing, expansion or even becoming a legitimate enterprise.

Lacroix said BEST can also help in the area where many small businesses flounder: startup funding.

BEST has a micro-loan program in partnership with Vancity Credit Union that can provide funding from $2,000 to $35,000.

To register for the BEST program in Powell River, go to or call Lacroix at 250.505.7673.