Submitted by Andrew Merrilees--If the health and future of a small community can be seen in its entrepreneurs and youth, then Haida Gwaii has a bright future. 5 young entrepreneurs have been developing their business skills since last October at Community Futures in Masset as part of Youthworks!, a 6 month HRDC funded business program to assist with the skills needed to succeed in the business environment.
They participated in workshops, training programs, met with local business people, attended conferences on business issues and supported each other throughout the program which saw the development of 5 solid business plans and the beginnings of 3 new small businesses, covering a variety of opportunities on the islands. Participants came to the program with their own business idea and through research tested the viability of their ideas. The new businesses range from large retail stores to small home-based manufacturing operations.
"It was an opportunity that I just couldn't let pass me by," says Dawn-Ann Schneider, the owner of the new 'She Sells' gift shop in Sandspit. " I found early on that my future options on the islands were minimal and starting a business was one way that I could still live here."
For many of the participants, the program provided the opportunity to develop existing ideas which had been in their minds for some time. Jen Wilson had already been pursuing her business dream on the side and found the program provided her with the financial backing she needed to get started. "The program provided me with the chance to develop an idea that I've had in the back of my mind for years". Jen's enterprise is called 'Jeneral Craft' and is making use of a locally abundant resource, using salvaged wood to manufacture hand bound wooden books suitable for picture albums and journals.
A third business will be operated by Shannon White and is hoped to be open soon to cater to the needs of campers visiting the North Beach area. 'The Store by the Shore' will sell convenience and snack items to the many tourists and locals who utilize the area during the summer season.
Support for the program has come from all over the islands with much from existing small businesses which have provided guidance through mentoring and group discussions with the participants. Continue the valuable support that has been given to these new small businesses and stop by to checkout the future of business on the Islands!
She Sells is open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 8pm, Seabreeze Plaza, Sandspit and Jeneral Craft's hand bound wooden books are available at Funk-It in Tlell and the Moon over Naikoon Bakery on Tow Hill Road. Keep an eye open for the grand opening of The Store by the Shore in future editions of the Observer.
If you have a business idea, which you want to begin, Community Futures offers support and counseling for small business. Call 1-888-328-5594 to set up an appointment.