An innovative pilot project hopes to encourage and support new businesses in Williams Lake.
Seeding Start-ups is the brain child of the Central Cariboo Economic Development Corporation under the leadership of economic development officer Susan Fornier who was hired in May of this year.
“Through the program we will provide small grants and mentoring support to 30 new businesses — 20 senior entrepreneurs and 10 youth entrepreneurs,” Fornier told city council at its regular meeting Tuesday. “This program is ground-breaking, not only in B.C. but in Canada.”
The program will be for new businesses or one that a person has been trying to run part-time but has not formally launched into a full business.
A mentoring board will be part of the project to share skills, knowledge, expertise and networks to help new businesses thrive and succeed, Fornier said.
Financial assistant will be in the amount of $1,000 per senior entrepreneur and $1,500 per youth entrepreneur, plus training, workshops and the mentoring.
For the purposes of the project, they are using the Development Bank of Canada’s definitions so youth is considered 39 and under, seniors are age 50 plus, Fornier said.
During the meeting, Fornier told council the project has been approved for $64,000 from the Rural Dividend Fund so she was now requesting $5,000 of support from the City toward the project. Council unanimously approved the $5,000.
In the original application to the Rural Dividend fund, the Williams Lake Central Business Improvement Area committed $15,000 and Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin committed to providing in-kind support.
Now Fornier will also request $2,500 of support from Community Futures under its sponsorship program.
“We have received the provincial support based on going back to the potential partners,” Fornier told council.
Fornier will manage the project overall and provide direction for a project co-ordinator who will be hired in the near future, she said, noting the project co-ordinator will work most likely out of the Community Futures office.
Coun. Craig Smith asked if the WLBIA is legally able to contribute to the project as it is a society itself.
Fornier said “yes it can be a community partner.”
Coun. Scott Nelson described the project as a fantastic opportunity to showcase Williams Lake as a community involved in trying to encourage new businesses.
“It will set the tone of where we want to be at and by partnering with the other levels of government it will help highlight the project,” Nelson added.
Fornier said it is a only one-year pilot project because they may not be able to provide financial support to new businesses in future years.
However, by getting the mentors and pilot in place, it is hoped the program will continue on its own and be sustainable, she added.
“Community Futures has a specific program for the gap and our project is looking to be complimentary and not replace something that already exists.”