BARRHEAD-Community Futures Yellowhead East (CFYE) wants to take the show on the road and provide its services in the communities it serves by partnering with local municipalities.
This is what CFYE executive director Michelle Jones told Town of Barrhead councillors at their April 27 meeting.
Jones attended the meeting virtually to give councillors an update on its activities over the past year and ask for the council's support in hosting its annual Lemonade Day, an event geared to teach youth about what is involved in setting up and running a small business.
Specifically, she requested that the council provide a space (free of charge) to host information and planning sessions, sponsor the Entrepreneur of the year contest, help with promotion and provide judges for the day of the event.
"We are trying to keep the event free for participants and we have no budget for programs," she said.
This year Lemonade Day will be June 19, depending on COVID-19 public health restrictions. The alternate date is Sept. 18.
Council accepted Jones' presentation as information.
Community Futures is a not-for-profit community-driven organization that provides a wide range of small business services and business management tools for people wanting to start or expand an existing business or those looking to sell or buy a business. It was founded in 1986 and is funded by the federal government in Western Canada by Western Economic Diversification Canada. The Yellowhead East branch is based in Whitecourt and is one of 27 the organization has in Alberta.
Its board consists of locally-elected representatives from member communities.
Jones added CFYE hopes to be more visible in the communities they serve, as life returns to semi-normal.
"Once we can meet in person again, we hope to open satellite and mobile offices and meet with potential entrepreneurs and clients right in their communities," she said.
Jones noted that they also hope to partner with municipalities to expand their services to help local businesses hurt by the pandemic.
"We recognize as the result of the COVID-19 Impact Survey we did that small businesses are still struggling and require support from the municipalities," she said. "We also recognize the demand that is being put on municipalities because of that and there is controversy about whose role it is to help small businesses with various types of supports. While I see the role that federal and provincial governments play, our board also recognizes that municipalities play a role as well."
Because of the financial constraints of municipalities, Jones said CFYE established a $70,000 matching grant pool.
"[The pool] will be made available to municipalities that choose to provide some sort of support for small businesses," she said, adding they would be releasing additional details in the coming weeks, including examples of successful programs other municipalities have created to help local businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Jones also gave brief overviews of CFYE's interest-free for youth and students loan program, explaining there are two components to the initiative, the first of which provides $1,000 to $5,000 to eligible students from 15 to 24 years old for start-up capital. The second is a loan program for youths 16 to 29 years, which provides loans of up to $15,000 for start-up, expansion or expansion of a business.
She also touched on the Entrepreneurs with Disability Program, which currently has a $65,000 fund to loan to people with a physical or mental disability to help them start or run a business.
These programs are not included in the CFYE's general $257,000 repayable and $1,300,000 non-repayable loan funds.
Jones explained that while the funds are available to lend to area small business entrepreneurs, the difference between the funds is that if the government ever shuttered the Community Futures program, they would have to return the unused portion of the repayable fund to the government. The non-repayable pool, if the program was shuttered, would remain with the community stakeholders.
She also noted that CFYE is in the process of creating strategic plans with member municipalities, saying they have already completed one for Woodlands County and will be working with Swan Hills and Onoway to complete their plans later this year.
Coun. Ty Assaf asked what the CFYE's satellite community offices would look like.
Jones said that would depend a lot on the community, as CFYE would expect that the municipality would provide the space at no cost.
"It would probably visit monthly," she said, using Barrhead as an example.
"In the morning, we might provide our services to female or Indigenous entrepreneurs while the afternoon would be reserved for our regular clients," she said.