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Small business has big impact on district

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Being “small-minded” can be a very good thing, especially when it comes with a great business plan.

And while everyone has a different definition of what small business is, it is not a minority around Rainy River district.

In fact, small business accounts for roughly 85 percent of the total businesses in this district, noted Tannis Drysdale, associate advisor for the Northwest Enterprise Centre of Confederation College.

“Eighty percent of the continued growth in the job sector is coming out of small business,” said Drysdale, who's also president of the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.

“That's a big encouragement with regards to employment possibilities for our youth.”

Drysdale, who helps facilitate the “Build a Business” course offered through the Northwest Enterprise Centre, also noted that small enterprise can mean much more reward at the local level.

“Profits for large corporations are usually held by stock holders outside the community. Small business profits stay in and spin directly in our community,” she explained.

“And small business has been very active in community development. They are community stakeholders and they have no intention of packing up and leaving,” she added.

“They make large contributions to their community through both personal and financial support.”

Drysdale reasoned the move towards increased small business statistics is perhaps coming back in style once again even though it seems to be a fresh concept.

But she also said the “shift to small” is a direct result of what options are left in today's changing society.

“It's a trend for the next century and we see it as brand new and exciting. But if we look back at our grandparents, many of them were self-employed,” she noted.

"It's really just one generation of work force that has not looked at self-employment. We used to have two options—either join a corporation or work for the government.

"Those doors aren't as open any more. Now there's a third option and that is self-employment.

And that third option is exactly what the 14-week “Build a Business” program can help provide.

The course usually attracts the mature student who comes to the table with some technical skills but a lack of education in areas like marketing and sales—important abilities needed to proceed with their self-employment.

Drysdale also noted students come to the course knowing pretty well what kind of business they want to get into.

“They are encouraged to come to the table and say 'These are my skills that I have' and we provide them with the opportunity to match those skills with [a plan],” she explained.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time you don't go anywhere fast without a business plan. It's the calling card of today.”

Students are educated on issues such as marketing, sources of financing, government regulations and “red tape,” and how to research those areas.

“We provide the resources related to the collection of data required for their [individual] business plan,” noted Drysdale.

“I've had one or two moments when I am sitting down with a student developing the numbers and I see in their eyes that this plan is really going to work,” she reflected.

“It is a joy to do this job every day.”

The next “Build a Business” course begins Nov. 10.

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