Program helps college students remodel enterprise concepts into actuality | Vancouver Island College

Since 2018, VIU’s Cooperative Entrepreneur Coaching Program (CETP) has been providing college students with disabilities or those that have confronted employment challenges the chance to study the important abilities of being an entrepreneur.

The 30-week program contains programs on entrepreneurial pondering, enterprise technique, monetary literacy, advertising and mentoring. Whereas this system went on-line out of necessity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it turned clear {that a} digital classroom opened up this system province-wide. It continues to run on-line so college students from throughout Canada can entry it.

This system is a secure place for college students to remodel their enterprise concepts into actuality, says teacher Amy Woermke.

Listed here are graduates of this system and their tales of how they did simply that.

Benjamin Quinn – My Hubby’s Bagels

Program helps college students remodel enterprise concepts into actuality | Vancouver Island College

Proudly owning his personal bagel store was a dream that started “years in the past,” says Ben, proprietor of My Hubby’s Bagels. “I believed it was simply that – a dream. I had no concept the best way to make it occur.”

In 2020, Ben realized concerning the CETP whereas taking part in a program by means of Meals Share that helps individuals with disabilities study abilities and acquire expertise by means of farming.

“As somebody who lives with a incapacity, the concept of being an entrepreneur had a specific enchantment to my want for good work/life steadiness,” he says. “There have been grants which made participation within the CETP program accessible, so I utilized.”

He took this system throughout the top of the pandemic, with all programs on-line, and whereas he says there have been professionals and cons to this, “the flexibleness of assembly from house was truly actually useful at the moment for me personally. The course content material was accessible and what I appreciated probably the most was that it was relevant to a scale of enterprise concepts. Amy made the content material adaptable to the particular wants and imaginative and prescient of every participant. I feel this was potential partially by the smaller class dimension.”

Ben developed a enterprise mannequin, discovered funding and opened a store in Nanaimo.

“The enterprise has definitely taken a couple of evolutions over the previous few years and I’m happy with all of them,” he says. “Society has lots of false concepts of what it means to dwell with a incapacity and these concepts are sometimes an even bigger barrier to residing life nicely then the disabilities themselves.”

Ben at present operates out of Chemainus by means of a collaboration with one other community-oriented enterprise that opens their kitchen and retailer entrance to passionate bakers and entrepreneurs throughout the Island.

“My mission assertion is ‘Constructing neighborhood by means of bread and bagels,’ and staying true to this imaginative and prescient has been my anchor at each crossroads,” he says. “I’m happy with what I’ve achieved and the connections I’ve made. The muse I developed by means of this system has been the important thing to watching my dream change into a actuality.” 

Whirly Hen – Stray Coastal Moat Farm Market

Whirly Bird

Whirly Hen is the proprietor of the Stray Coastal Moat Farm Market, throughout the freeway from the Nanaimo airport.

“I began the enterprise, however the market area has been right here for 44 years underneath two earlier family-owned companies since 1979 and it already has a daily clientele,” says Whirly.

She understands the affect accessing good wholesome meals has on their very own well being, and working their very own enterprise offers her the flexibleness to work in a means that matches her personal medical wants. “I need to provide good meals to individuals who wrestle with weight loss program issues like me, and ensure additionally they have actual meals to eat as a result of meals is medication,” Whirly shares, including that that is what motivated her to enrol within the CEPT this yr.

“I needed to begin this enterprise earlier than I began this system,” she says. “The CETP is nice for individuals like myself who simply want slightly bit extra time to determine issues out and the opposite college students had been actually supportive. This system helped me perceive what’s concerned with being an entrepreneur. They present you all of the doorways, however you’re taking each single step your self and it’s as much as you to ensure you’ve ticked all of the packing containers.”

Proudly owning a enterprise just like the farm market was a pure match for Whirly, who’s a farmer. Regardless of going through hardships when she and her associate first moved to the Island with solely the change of their pockets, Whirly shortly turned concerned in the neighborhood and graduated from the North Island Market Gardener Coaching Program in 2021. In 2022, the pair had been approached by the previous house owners of the market who had been trying to retire.

“We thought it was an ideal concept, as a result of we’re additionally into supplying good actual meals, supporting native growers, feeding individuals and caring for the setting,” she provides. “You don’t actually discover these locations anymore so it’s actually particular to us.”

Kai Stilwell – Popcorn Revolution

Kai Stilwell

Anybody who’s attended a Nanaimo Nightowls baseball sport may acknowledge the culinary brainchild of Kai Stilwell. Kai owns and operates Popcorn Revolution, the official popcorn provider for Nightowls video games.

The concept for his enterprise got here from an “aha second” over Christmas one yr, after he made caramel popcorn for individuals as a present and acquired “glowing accolades” for his work. “Who doesn’t love popcorn?” he provides.

Kai realized concerning the CETP whereas enrolled within the Office Important Abilities and Coaching (WEST) program.

“Since I come from a household of entrepreneurs, I used to be ,” he says. “I used to be additionally struggling to take care of employment and the concept of creating my very own schedule and having management over what I do was very interesting to me.”

Kai accomplished the CETP in 2021. He says this system was “pleasing and the help I acquired helped me perceive the best way to run my enterprise and make choices. The most effective issues was the funding I acquired by means of bursaries to help the start-up of my enterprise. It enabled me to purchase good high quality tools that kick began issues.”

The chance to share his enterprise pitch with different neighborhood members was additionally a spotlight of this system.

“It gave me an opportunity to work on my confidence and my public talking abilities whereas sharing my pleasure for my new enterprise.”

Kai’s enterprise delivers “high-quality, scrumptious, uniquely flavoured gourmand popcorn in quite a lot of flavours, with the idea that there’s something for everybody’s style buds, irrespective of their age.”

He says creating significant and lasting employment is a crucial consequence of Popcorn Revolution, and makes use of his enterprise to present again to the neighborhood as nicely. A portion of his income are donated to the Pacific Autism Household Community, which helps employment for adults with autism.

As his enterprise grows, “growth of staff will deal with the hiring of different adults with autism whereas offering clients with merchandise that they need at an inexpensive worth. Popcorn Revolution intends to construct one thing significant that serves our deepest objective.”

Leslie Sanger – Grant Star Write Design

Leslie Sanger smiling at the camera

Though she had some expertise within the subject, Leslie Sanger didn’t initially intend to change into a grant author when she began the CETP. Now, her providers are so in-demand that she’s needed to flip some work down. “It’s a optimistic as a result of it means my enterprise is successful and rising,” she says.

Leslie began this system in 2021 after being laid off from her part-time work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I used to be in search of work alternatives, so I received in contact with WorkBC and talked to them about my experiences with self-employment,” she explains.

The pliability of the CETP, figuring out she can be supported during and the concept of getting “at the very least a elementary enterprise” by the point she completed, drew her to this system. Though she was nervous at first, Leslie loved assembly her classmates, in addition to the cooperative points of this system.

“By yr’s finish, it’s fairly an intimate group and I’m nonetheless in contact with a few of my classmates,” she provides.

Leslie’s enterprise is known as Grant Star Write Design. Because the title implies, she writes grants, each for non-profits and the enterprise world.

“After I entered this system, I hadn’t actually deliberate on changing into a grant author, though I had lots of expertise,” says Leslie. “I used to be trying extra at changing into a content material author. I noticed that the competitors for that kind of labor can be stiff and there have been already so many firms doing it, so I went into grant writing.”

This system helped Leslie not solely create her personal enterprise, “but in addition perceive enterprise language and the way enterprise individuals assume. Now I’m capable of have these enterprise relationships and really feel fairly comfy in an setting the place I wasn’t positive I’d be.”

Recommendation to future CETP college students

Now arrange with their very own rising enterprise ventures, all 4 graduates provided their recommendation to future CETP college students:

Ben: “You do not want a selected concept of what you need to do on day one, this system will aid you develop your concept. Go along with an open thoughts and a willingness to take some dangers round going exterior your consolation zone. Each time I stepped into the unknown, I discovered this system put the help in place to assist me alongside my means. Amy has an uncanny means to take massive concepts and break them down into sensible steps, in addition to make small concepts larger than you thought potential. My recommendation is to go for it. Step one for me on my journey was taking the chance to attempt.”

Whirly Hen: “When you’ve got a dream, it’s best to imagine in it and discover the sources which are going that will help you accomplish it. Getting concerned with individuals who can help you can be useful as a result of on the exhausting days while you really feel like giving up and it’s not going to work out, these persons are there to cheer you on, aid you to maintain going and need to see you succeed.”

Kai: “Take your time. Discover one thing you might be captivated with to make right into a enterprise. It’s lots of work however you are able to do it while you attempt your finest.”

Leslie: “If you wish to begin a enterprise, be ready to commit. There shall be work concerned as a result of at the start of the yr you may have a enterprise concept and on the finish of the yr you may have a full-blown enterprise.”

To use for the following program consumption, go to

Class: Trades & Utilized know-how Packages

Topic Space:  Tutorial and Profession Preparation

Program: Cooperative Entrepreneur Coaching Certificates Program

For questions or help with functions, please contact Amy Woermke at [email protected]

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