As one of 34 community future offices in B.C. the one in the Cariboo-Chilcotin has spent three decades focused on economic development and creating rural jobs.
“Small business is one of the backbones of our economy in this region,” Community Futures of Cariboo Chilcotin project manager Larry Stanberg said. “Every time you look around there’s a small business.”
At CF, small business is defined as 50 people or less are employed, he explained.
There are almost 300 members of the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce.
“All you have to do is look at how many people are members of the chamber to realize that small business plays an important role, not only in the economy of the Cariboo, but the economy of B.C. and Canada,” Stanberg said.
Serving an area twice the size of Vancouver Island, CFCC is there to help people start businesses by giving business loans and offering mentoring workshops in areas such as accounting, marketing or bookkeeping.
“We offer courses approximately every six weeks, Monday to Thursday afternoons for $50 a day,” Stanberg explained.
Courses are available for current business owners and people who are thinking of starting a business.
Getting the information ahead of time gives potential owners the tools to prepare to run with it when they are ready, he added.
Succession planning has also become a strong focus because many businesses are owned by baby boomers who are reaching retirement age and thinking of retiring in the next five years.
“We don’t want people to shut down their businesses, but maybe think about getting it ready to sell,” he suggested, adding CFCC also endeavours to encourage young people to consider being their own employer.
Aside from attending workshops, often people will access startup kits that walk them through what business plans are about, information about licenses, permits and insurance.
When asked how long it takes for the average person to open a business, he responded, “how long is a piece of string?”
Some people come in ready to go and for some people it’s a journey and those people are thinking three, four, five years down the road, he added.