Column 106

 

When you decide to go into business for yourself, you generally have no realistic idea of the impact of your decision. Sort of like having a baby.

You know you're really good at something and that's what drives you to become self employed.

The other thing driving you might be that you got let go as your company downsized again. Or, maybe you're new to Barrie and used to Toronto wages. Or perhaps you'd like more flexibility in how you live the working part of your life.

Whatever the reason, deciding to go it on your own is a big decision.

We are blessed in Barrie to have many resources for people looking at self employment. Anne Dorsey is the business guru at Barrie Public Library and she's like gold for small business. There are several programs, too. Some, like the one I founded which is called Grow Vantage, have a fee attached; others like SEA and GBBEC are funded by government and offer specific services. The Y has a program for young entrepreneurs. Ontario Works has special programs for people wanting to start businesses. There are many resources out there.

But the universal resource is a weekly meeting which lasts 90 minutes, connects you to dozens of people, teaches you a specific aspect of self employment, and bolsters your confidence.

It's called Small Business Connect. (www.smallbusinessconnect.ca) Founded by a number of entrepreneurs in this region, Small Business Connect offers a free weekly meeting, a member website, announcements, and camaderie. It's totally grassroots and it's completely volunteer.

Meetings are Wednesdays one week and Thursdays the next week. Thursday meetings are in space donated by Suite Success inside ESS Direct on Huronia Rd. Wednesday meetings are hosted by the Business Enterprise Resource Network on Commerce Park Dr.

Organizers all volunteer their time: Shane Serra of WSI, Sinda Simpson of ESS Direct, Patricia Dent of Grow Vantage, Debbie Ouelette of Echelon One Consulting, Patti Smith of Money Bootcamp Seminars, Dr Doug Jernigan of Your Dog is a Border Collier, Sarah Taylor of Shop Barrie.com.

That means these people are out every week, encouraging and inspiring entrepreneurs. That means they're encouraging people to get comfortable in how they introduce themselves. It means they show them how to put up their listing on the website, how to make an announcement. They organize the speakers (who speak for free) and for two years, dozens of meetings and hundreds of businesses influenced, not one nickel has changed hands!

Small Business Connect meets next Thursday (Oct 10) at ESS Direct. It means they met yesterday at BERN. Because it's not membership based, each week offers some regulars and some new faces, which is terrific.

The group is just entering its third year and I think its own elevator speech might include these words...inform, inspire, ignite! Because that's what SBC does for those who attend.

There's laughter. There's seriousness. There's inspiration. There are great stories. There are challenges shared. It's the full gamut for the newly self employed.

Thanks, all you entrepreneurs who cared enough to make this group take shape. Great leadership, enormous results!

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