Category Archives: Ventures

Entrepreneurship Isn’t For Everyone: Is It For You?

Almost everyone dreams, however briefly, of being an entrepreneur. The independence, the passion, the flexibility—these are all attractive prospects, especially after a long, gruelling day at a conventional job. Who among us hasn’t imagined what it would be like to be our own boss?

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The independent, classy entrepreneurship lifestyle looks great, but is it really for you? (Photo by Olu Eletu for upsplash.com)

No matter how exciting entrepreneurship may seem, it isn’t for everyone. It takes a special person to conceive a viable idea, make it grow into a successful enterprise, and nurture it through inevitable ups and downs. Some lack the zeal, confidence, and work ethic; others, the money and time. If starting a small business isn’t suited to your personality, you’re in for a long, hard road.

If you’re on the fence, here is a starting point. This assessment won’t give you a definitive answer, but if you answer “no” to one or more of these questions, entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you.


  1. Do you enjoy challenges? There’s nothing easy about establishing your own business, so you’ll need to relish a challenge and enjoy new experiences, no matter how anxiety-inducing they are.
  2. Are you competitive? Whether your business is unique or an innovative approach to an existing product or service, be prepared to face competition.
  3. How well do you handle risk-taking? If you’re risk-averse, you’ll find the entrepreneurial lifestyle stressful, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sustain it for long. Even highly-successful business owners will have to make calculated risks at some point in their careers. On the other hand, if you’re “comfortable with being uncomfortable,” you’ll be right at home!
  4. What’s your approach when spending money? You have to spend money to make money, but unhealthy spending habits are hard to break, and can do serious harm to your business.
  5. Can you handle long-term commitment? Growing your business means you’ll be pouring your resources and time into the same project, day in and day out. It won’t always be fun, interesting, or successful, so you’ll need to know that you can weather the tough times—and there will be tough times.
  6. Do big decisions scare you? Decisiveness is one of the qualities entrepreneurs must possess if they hope to succeed. Running a business means you’ll be faced with all sorts of decisions, and many of them will involve huge expenditures and frightening risks. If you believe you can handle these decisions under crushing pressure, you’re likely to be an excellent entrepreneur.
  7. How do you respond to stress? Burnout is common for new business owners, since they work long hours with minimal support (or none at all). Coping with stress and exhaustion in a healthy, efficient way is key.
  8. Is persistence in your nature? Throughout their journeys, many entrepreneurs contemplate giving up. A strong work ethic and zealous passion aren’t always enough. While it’s important to practice self-care and avoid unnecessary stress, entrepreneurship means refusing to fold under significant strain.

Ventures: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities ProgramWhile these questions can serve as a springboard, remember that there’s no replacement for research and hands-on experience. Even if your personality matches that of the ideal entrepreneur, you still need to discover whether your idea is viable and, if it is, whether you actually want to pursue it. Examining your chosen field, starting your business on a very small scale, and interacting with other entrepreneurs are additional ways to test the waters. You can also get out and participate in entrepreneurship workshops or programs, such as Ventures, DECSA’s program for entrepreneurs with disabilities. After all, studying entrepreneurship on paper is nothing like the real thing.

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Moving Forward Together: a Story of Recovery

When Lawrence received the diagnosis for the ADHD he had had his entire life, he was in a very dark place. He was so depressed, in fact, that he did not know where to turn, and wasn’t sure how he’d continue to deal with his “scattered mind.” Unsure of which direction to take, he stumbled upon DECSA and joined the Ventures program.

The Ventures program suited his entrepreneurial spirit, and DECSA was vital in his recovery. In addition to his mental health struggles, he was plagued by physical issues, adding another barrier to his success. He confided in our staff, allowing them to help him understand the changes occurring in his life. The program helped him hone his existing skills and understand his disability more clearly. It was at DECSA that Lawrence realized ADHD didn’t have to be a barrier—and that it could even be an asset.

“I started understanding myself and what I could do in this world,” he said, “and realized that DECSA was a place where I felt safe.”

After he left the program, Lawrence searched for a way to use his entrepreneurial spirit and newfound confidence. Some friends of his, also entrepreneurs, invited him to help reinvent a company called Combined Insurance. The company has been around since 1922, and under the leadership of Lawrence and his team, it has made a stunning comeback.

Combined Insurance logoLawrence describes Combined Insurance as a company dedicated to helping people “prepare for, work through, and recover from life trauma.” Combined Insurance focuses on filling in the gaps of existing medical insurance, supplementing health plans and insuring those who would otherwise struggle to be covered at all. The aim, Lawrence says, is to sit clients down, figure out which difficulties they’re facing, and help them understand the benefits they already have. From there, it’s just a matter of providing the extra assistance needed to walk the client through their recovery, whatever it might look like.

Lawrence explains that his own trauma and recovery gave him an edge: he is able to understand what clients are going through more intimately, and can demonstrate to them that he’s been through trauma of his own. This places him in a unique position to help them recover from their own experiences.

“I want [clients] to know that I’ve been in dark spots too, that it’s okay, and that we can move forward together.”

For Lawrence, it’s all about community. Being around people who have suffered through dark times reminds him of how far he has come, and allows him to fulfill his life’s purpose. Even though he no longer works with us, Lawrence remains strongly attached to DECSA and the community we serve.

“I’m a big fan of DECSA. I could not have found my mission and purpose in life without them. DECSA is a place I can call home.”

Entrepreneurship & Disability: An Optimal Pair

In honour of Small Business Week, we’re focusing on entrepreneurship. Small businesses are the backbone of a community. They stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and allow for creativity and innovation. Economies and societies thrive when entrepreneurship flourishes.

Small business owners are living proof that self-employment can be fulfilling and liberating. Many would-be entrepreneurs are intimidated by the obvious barriers: lack of funding, support, and/or expertise. Despite their inner drive to create something new, to branch out, to be brave, taking the first step is daunting enough to deter all but the most determined.

Still, regular employment comes with its own share of barriers. Those with disabilities, including mental health issues, face distinct barriers to employment, which are often overlooked. Disability doesn’t prevent these individuals from being efficient, productive employees, but employers may be unwilling or unable to accommodate their specific needs. Discriminatory hiring practices—not to mention inhospitable work environments—can make self-employment more attractive.

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A trendy small business option is starting a food truck.

Entrepreneurship Demands Innovation

Dealing with these types of barriers can actually benefit an aspiring business owner. The essence of entrepreneurship lies in an innovative spirit and a unique worldview. Those facing barriers to regular employment may be more receptive to out-of-the-box thinking by default, because their various challenges require them to find creative solutions to everyday situations. A person with a disability already lives a life that requires different approaches to ordinary activities, so thinking outside the box may come more naturally to them.

Entrepreneurship Encourages Flexibility

Part of entrepreneurship’s appeal is flexibility, which makes it ideal for someone with a disability. Flexible hours make it easier for someone with chronic illness to work when they can, rather than trying to follow a strict schedule. Being able to customize the business’s location and work environment ensures a wheelchair user can navigate safely and efficiently. A visually impaired business owner can make sure information is available in accessible formats. Freedom from stigma can help someone with a mental health issue reach their full potential without worrying about employer attitudes. Self-employment eliminates many of the barriers that come with working for someone else.

Entrepreneurship Ignites Social Change

Entrepreneurship allows business owners to give back to their communities. Besides contributing to the local economy and job creation, those starting new businesses have an opportunity to do some social good as well. Someone with a disability is better able to consider inclusiveness and accessibility when designing their work environment and may be more inclined to hire those from diverse backgrounds. A business owner with a mental illness might offer superior mental health support to their employees. Those with disabilities might be more understanding of the individual struggles of others, working harder to help however they can. Business owners can enforce their values from the top down, promoting a business culture that is more accessible and accommodating to everyone.

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With the right encouragement and support, your business will soon be open for customers!

The Bottom LineVentures: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program

Small businesses benefit everyone on all social and economic levels. An entrepreneurial journey, however risky, can lift someone out of unemployment and result in a challenging, exciting and rewarding career. That is why DECSA started Ventures: a program for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Through coaching and group support, would-be business owners get the skills and encouragement they need to pursue their business dreams. If you have a viable business idea and identify as having a disability, visit our site for more information.

Will there be barriers? Yes. Should they stop you? We don’t think so!

Good Night and Good Luck! Congratulations to our Ventures Graduates

Emotions ran wild at DECSA last Thursday! Ventures program clients wrapped up their six-week long curriculum, undertaking a gratifying ceremony in which many were left in wistful tears of jovial congratulations and farewells. The best part? Audience members were gifted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness splendid entrepreneurial pitches provided by none other than the blossoming businessmen and women who took on the program. For those who missed the chance to see the presentations first-hand, here is an in-depth account of the event—documenting photographs, quotes, business ideas, and raw reactions from the attendees!

What is the Ventures Program?

DECSA’s Ventures program serves people who are eighteen and older, live in Edmonton or surrounding areas, have a visible or invisible disability, and have a viable business idea they want to make happen. Those who take part are provided with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement their own small-time businesses.

photo2.jpgThe program is managed and facilitated by Sherree, along with her talented and hardworking team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Help

The ceremony began with a shout-out to two very special volunteers who were integral to the program’s success:

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Mona first found DECSA at a volunteer fair. She said the only agency that stood out to her was none other than DECSA! Thanks to our very own and incredibly articulate Aimee, who was able to rattle off a five-second pitch for DECSA, Mona knew immediately that the organization was right for her! “DECSA would be nothing without people like Aimee,” she said. Mona helped out the Ventures program every day and was essential to this year’s success.

 

 

 

 

 

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Denis is a graphic designer; he taught the science of branding and logo design to the class. He thanked his mom and dad. He “wouldn’t be here without ‘em!”

 

 

 

 

Pitches from Our Entrepreneurs

These are some of the graduating students of our June 2016 class.

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Kimberley was first up, and featured a very unique presentation using assistive technology to demonstrate some of the services she will be providing in her business. She’s planning on providing life & career counselling services to blind customers. Her compatriots admire her humour most; when helping Kimberley find her lighter Sherree asked for its colour. “How would I know what colour it is? — I’m blind!” Kimberley joked.

 

 

 

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Janet was next up. Her business provides hand and machine-sewn traditional Aboriginal clothing. She attributes her greatest inspiration to her grandmother; after her grandmother’s passing, Janet was reminded of her by a blue butterfly on her windowsill. “Let them go, let them be free,” she reminisced.

 

 

Brandon took on the notoriously awkward “elevator pitch.” After reciting a 30-second pitch to Sherree, Brandon gave us a tour of his website. Brandon offers graphic design services to artists and businesses, and promises to keep the industry and goals of his clients in mind when designing their logos.reu5rue

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Dustin believes that safer, alternative analgesics should be available for everyone. His business plan is to provide cost-efficient and donation-driven medical marijuana services to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dayna is a passionate artist who desires to provide low-cost digital and printed artwork to private buyers and businesses. She is currently working to establish her company, but wishes to soon be able to help others with disabilities achieve their goals.

 

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Congratulations to our Graduates!

Developing a start-up can be tough, but with the skills learned in the Ventures program these clients are better prepared for the challenging journeys that lie ahead. Good luck to all our graduates! Stay persistent, and remember to apply the skills you’ve learned here!

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