Small businesses are the key to the Canadian economy. At the end of 2015, they employed over 8.2 million Canadians, representing more than 70 percent of the total private labour force and contributed roughly 30% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. They also account for 27 % of all research and development expenditures, and we have seen the results of this innovation locally in businesses such as Randy Aucoin’s Exact Imaging and Alex Bushell’s recently launched technology company, Cap Track.
The Peterborough Economic Development (PED) agency strives to stimulate the local economy by attracting talent, innovation and investments to foster a vibrant, innovative and attractive local economy. According to the organization’s CEO, Rhonda Keenan, they take two angles to achieve this: on the offense they strive to attract new business to the area through promotional activities, and on the defense they help local businesses become more successful. She describes this as a team sport, including local Chambers of Commerce, local City and municipal Councils, the Community Futures organization and other business networks.
To achieve this goal, their team provides a variety of confidential and complimentary tools and services for companies and individuals seeking to locate, grow or start a business in the Peterborough region. They have provided several educational opportunities in the township, including the Art of the Sale and Selling Food to Ontario workshops aimed at small business owners.
Many of their programs are targeted at youth, including their popular Summer Company program provides self-motivated high school, college and university applicants the opportunity to try their hand at making money by creating and operating their own business. Their Starter Company helps young entrepreneurs establish permanent businesses. With support from the organization’s Business Advisory Centre staff, mentorship from local business leaders, business workshops and some seed money, applicants are supported in their early efforts at operating their own businesses.
PED also has programs to help established businesses expand, with tools to help entrepreneurs develop new business plans, connect with staffing and training agencies, develop partnerships with government agencies and local industry supply chains and export agencies. They can also provide assessments of existing businesses and offer recommendations for growth. Their expertise can also help business owners identify and apply for a variety of funding options, including traditional financing as well as incentive programs.
Last year, Diane Rogers of Doo Doo’s Bakery participated in a new pilot program aimed at growing and improving the established business called the B.L.A.S.T. Pilot Program. Her bakery and country style coffee shop in Bailieboro was already well established, and her reputation for product quality was growing quickly. In the last few years her participation in a number of butter tart competitions has put her business on the map. In 2015, her product secured top spot in the Kawartha Northumberland butter tart competition, and her tart has been named the best butter tart in the Ontario Butter Tart Festival in Midland for the past three years. Last November she won 4 of the 5 top spots in the Royal Winter Fair tart contest, including the Butter Tart Grand Champion. Clearly Diane knows how to bake. The increasing popularity of her baking put pressure on her production, and she was eager to boost production capacity to avoid having customers arrive to find their selections were sold out, without sacrificing the quality she has worked so hard to establish. She needed a plan.
Through the BLAST program, Rogers learned to look at her business from a different angle. Targeted to local business people over 30 years of age, the program provides assistance, support and training needed for business success to entrepreneurial-minded individuals looking to: expand an existing business; convert their professional skills into a viable business opportunity; create a job for self or others and/or access export markets. The top 16 candidates receive a $5,000 micro-grant.
The self-directed training program includes the development of a comprehensive business plan, something that Rogers had never done. With the support of advisors and other local entrepreneurs participating in the program, she learned a few lessons about managing expenses. Crunching numbers is now a regular part of her week, and she uses production targets to ensure her bakers can keep product on the shelves while still making each item by hand. This has been made easier through the purchase of a new oven paid in part by the grant she received as one of BLAST’s top 16 entrepreneurs of 2016.
Whether you are a novice or experienced business owner, Peterborough Economic Development provides tools and services that may help take your business to the next level. This month their Business Advisory Centre is offering a Money Management workshop on the evening of January 18th to discuss how to track sales, manage expenses and identify funding sources. For more information on this and the other services offered by Peterborough Economic Development, visit www.peterboroughed.ca or call 705-743-0777. KG