By Aly Winks
Panelists: Kath Britton, Business Advisor for Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC); Paulina Cameron, Director BC & Yukon Futurpreneur Canada; Kara Zucker, Marketing Director FrontFundr; Joylnn Green, Executive Director, Community Futures Central Island
Moderator: Minah Haghighi, Business Development Manager, BC Futurpreneur Canada
A packed house in the Duke Point Room at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre was a good testament to how many people either want to fund a new business or need access to money to grow their business.
The take-home message was straightforward: Money is available, but you need to be organized, committed and passionate about your business to get your hands on it. For more flexibility and access to funds, a good place to look is at development funds.
There are a few characteristics that differentiate development funds from traditional banks. They are typically:
- Less risk averse
- Interested in a person’s character
- Often non-profit organizations that have a variety of programs available to help people conduct their business properly
- Looking for viability rather than a proven track record
- Want to see some “skin in the game” for the business owner
Development funds evolved as an answer to traditional models that sometimes stifled a great idea before it could take off.
“We can help right from the beginning to fund a business when the banks won’t look at a person,” said Green. “We are very interested in character, and we want to see commitment – how much have you thought about what you want to do? We will ask for more information and more work done to get entrepreneurs in the right shape and headspace before the money comes.”
“There are so many great resources at there, and one of our primary roles is to help people find those resources at the right time for their business,” said Zucker. “The CAN Export grant is a great example of that – it helps people access new international markets, and the criteria for qualifying are relatively few, but you cannot have sold anything, even online, internationally. You may accidentally miss the chance for a significant grant.”
Cameron at Futurpreneur helps entrepreneurs aged 18-39 build a business plan, access money and connect with potential investors and plays match-maker between mentees and mentors – an activity Britton sees as invaluable.
“One of the most important attributes for success in business is being in a mentorship position for a new business owner,” she said. “People who have mentors are exponentially more likely to succeed.”
Her organization works with women who are building businesses. She likes to see personal investment.
“Why should we get people to invest their money in your business if you won’t?” she said.
All panelists said a business plan is a must-have, and all will work on them with the owner to ensure they are robust. Another key marker of success is identifying in advance who may be called upon for support over the years.