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New program will help youth start their own businesses

Friday, October 03, 2014

By Carolyn Thompson, The Windsor Star

Just 89 days after he was hired for a lucrative technical job in Windsor, Kyle Devine was laid off. That’s when he decided it was time to try a different option: starting his own business.

“The first three months of the business, I was just reading,” he said, trying to learn everything he needed to know about the rules, regulations, and management of small start-ups.

That’s where the new mentorship and grant program Starter Company from the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation comes in.

It’s designed to make that transition run smoother, providing potential entrepreneurs with training sessions, one-on-one mentors and grants up to $5,000. The program was announced on Friday.

“Sometimes people who might grow up in a small business household, they’ll know what it’s like because their family has a small business. But if you don’t come from that background you won’t even consider that that could be an option in terms of what you’re going to do as a career,” said Sandra Pupatello, CEO of the development corporation. “We’re going to reach out to people and say, you know what, this is an option.”

The program, which is run out of the Small Business Centre, is aimed at youth from 18 to 29 who are out of school.

It will try to combat the high failure rate of start-ups by giving potential entrepreneurs what they need before they get in too deep.

“A lot of times that we see failure in businesses starting up is because there isn’t a good foundation for everything that you need to start a business: a business plan to apply to funding, as well as marketing and advertising, understanding your finances, understanding your cash flow,” said Sandra Vasquez, youth co-ordinator for the project. “That’s exactly what the workshops are meant to do. They’re going to target specific subjects that are important for anyone that is starting their own business.”

For Devine, whose staffing agency Devine Personnel is starting to pick up steam after he first began in January, that support could have made the process much easier.

“Even just to have a mentor in the field show me the ropes and show me where to go,” he said would have been beneficial. He spent several months of his new business just collecting information, developing contacts and seeking expert advice.

Starter Company participants will have to go through the training and mentorship before they can consider applying for one of the 25 grants of up to $5,000. That’s so that the centre can ensure people receiving a share of the relatively small amount of funds will be sure to put them back into the region.

“If we do that right, that’s 25 new companies in our community,” Pupatello said.

Windsor will be the regional centre for the Starter Company programs across Essex County and all the way to London.

“We wanted to have people consider this as a third option. Your choices aren’t just go back for more school or go out and get a job,” Vasquez said. “We want people to do something that they love so they stay in our area and they really contribute to our economy.”