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MentorshipBC matches entrepreneurs for success

Mentors can help alleviate challenges
Dean Unger

Connecting small business in Powell River with mentors throughout BC is the focus of an initiative that Powell River Regional Economic Development Society (PRREDS) is looking to put in place.

The MentorshipBC program connects entrepreneurs and business owners with valuable resources and a mentorship program to guide the process and development of running or establishing a business. The program was created by the ministry of jobs, tourism and skills training. “It’s an effective program that’s been used in other communities with excellent results,” said Scott Randolph, PRREDS manager. “We are looking at the possibility of incorporating it through the Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program. One of the facets of the BRE program is that we connect businesses with resources.”

The BRE committee interviewed 350 people and 100 said they expected to expand their business some time within the next three years, said Randolph. “We recognized that if we could at least help them grow and add at least one new job for each business, that’s 100 new jobs. That’s significant.”

There are many challenges with the internal workings and day-to-day management of a business, he said. “You have an idea. It’s a good idea. How do you get from idea phase to a point in the business where you’re actually getting tangible results and experiencing success?”

He said that tangible goal setting is one of the main results that comes from working with the MentorshipBC program. “An experienced mentor can help execute systems that address ongoing problems and help identify when to take the next steps in development. They can help to set up and manage supply chains, identify when it’s time to take crucial next steps, and when to expand. They’ll also advise what some of the obstacles are that might develop and how to handle them if they do.”

Randolph pointed out that there can be some minor challenges with the program. “For instance, possible liability issues may arise where a mentor may give some bad advice,” he said. “These are details that need to be worked out as we move forward. We need to build the knowledge base and establish the relationships necessary to put this in place and mitigate any challenges.”

The nature of economic development in Powell River has changed. The shift in demographics—an aging population and growing shortages in skilled trades and professions—are creating this shift in the workforce and the labour market. “Another one of the main goals we are working toward is creating jobs where people can make a wage enough to support a family,” Randolph said. “That means attracting opportunity and investment. Another challenge moving forward is to create opportunities to keep and attract a younger demographic. We need to find ways to keep young people in Powell River and to create employment and business opportunities.”

According to the government’s 2013 Small Business Accord, small business represents 98 per cent of all businesses in BC. They are a major contributor of employment, economic development and trade activity in the province. Small business accounts for employment for more than one million people and for 55 per cent of the GDP produced in the province.

Randolph explained that the program is also a conduit between people from the international community who are looking to invest in Powell River businesses that are being sold and the owners themselves. “One of the major thrusts of economic development is business retention expansion,” Randolph said. “This means that PRREDS is looking to cut down on or prevent loss of businesses where people want to retire. We have many businesses where owners are aging and tired and they want to move on. We want to retain those businesses. We don’t want to see them let go, but there is not always someone in the family to pass it on to. So on the succession side, we help to find owners for those businesses.”

Randolph said those people are often from the international community, people looking for a change in pace and lifestyle. “This is a trend that we are starting to see happen here, and it’s important that we are prepared for it.”