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?
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.
- 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.
- Are you competitive? Whether your business is unique or an innovative approach to an existing product or service, be prepared to face competition.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
While 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.
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.
Lawrence 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.”
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.
The 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Managing your own business takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of learning, and quick, convenient online information can save some of that time and energy. Through years of supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities to build and expand their businesses through the Ventures program, DECSA staff members have discovered that Edmonton Public Library offers excellent online resources for business professionals.
So take a seat on your couch with a snack and get ready to learn:
Lynda.com is one of North America’s most respected sources of online educational videos about business, software, and technology. You can use this site to learn about a wide range of topics from marketing techniques to website design to finance fundamentals and more.
PressReader provides free online versions of newspapers from Edmonton, Canada and all over the world, including the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Sun, the Toronto Star, and The Washington Post. You can search for local and international business news from many sources on any topic.
eBooks are also just a click away, and many you can read in your browser without an e-reader. A couple great ebooks to start with are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win Friends and Influence People.
How do you access these resources?
- Go to www.epl.ca.
- Sign in using your library card number and password.
- Click on “Digital Content” at the top of the page.
- To access Lynda.com: Click on “Learn,” then “Lynda.com.”
- To access News: Click on “Newspapers & Magazines,” then “PressReader.”
- To access eBooks: Click on “eBooks,” then “OverDrive,” then type a topic or title into the searchbar in the top right corner of your screen. Note: OverDrive also offers audiobooks. All e-books have an image of an open book in the top right corner, while audiobooks have an image of a pair of headphones.
- Type in your library card number and password again, if required.
For more information or help accessing these resources and others, call the Edmonton Public Library at 780-496-7000, and enjoy using the fantastic resources it provides.
Last week, the always well-dressed Edmonton entrepreneur Lawrence Bonda spoke to our Ventures class of entrepreneurs with disabilities.
Lawrence Bonda (left)
Lawrence has faced many hardships, and he has received support from Ventures. He volunteered with a real estate network for several years, then branched into marketing and web services, and he continues to branch out.
He shared many nuggets of wisdom from his time at DECSA and beyond.
Lawrence suggests that entrepreneurs master the art of negotiation and in-kind exchanges, as well as access community and online resources. For example, Lawrence has used audiovisual resources at the Edmonton Public Library, found equipment at thrift stores, and met potential partners on Kijiji. As he says:
It’s not always about the money, it’s about figuring out what people want.
Our thanks to Lawrence for sharing!
Have you heard about DECSA’s Marketplace?
It’s our place for local vendors to sell their products and services, right here at DECSA!
You don’t want to miss this great monthly opportunity to shop for local crafts, clothing, artwork and other unique items!
The Marketplace sometimes includes a hot lunch for $5, as well. Be sure to check our Facebook page for all the details!
We look forward to seeing you at our monthly Marketplace – bring a friend or two!
If you would like to be a vendor at our Marketplace, please call 780-471-9655 to register a table!*
*Registering a table is $10.
Please join us in welcoming this lovable new member to DECSA!
But first, let’s share the story of how our newest member came to be here at DECSA…
The doll was donated by Ventures client James B, who began crafting the dolls while incarcerated. Many years ago, the first prototype was a life-size replica of Mr. B himself to fill his prison bed, which enabled a crafty escape.
Since that time, many smaller versions of the doll – a combination of recycled materials, handmade garments and baby clothing – have become a symbol of Mr. B’s creativity and industriousness. He now sells the dolls alongside original poetry he composed while in prison.
In the Ventures Entrepreneurs with Disabilities program, Mr. B is free to make his business bigger and more productive through smart business planning.
This doll still needs a name, so if you have an idea, please drop by our Community Hub and add it to the list, or email your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our BIG THANKS to James B for the wonderful gift and to all friends of DECSA for contributing name ideas!
In case you haven’t heard, every month we host an indoor marketplace here at DECSA, where small businesses have a chance to sell their products at an inexpensive venue. If you didn’t already need an excuse to come shopping at DECSA, we’ve put together 5 more reasons why you should support small businesses.
1.They tend to offer personalized customer service. When was the last time you walked into a big box store and the cashier knew your name? Small business owners are often the face of the company and are therefore more invested in making sure their customers are satisfied with their shopping experience.
2.They are more likely to give back. Small businesses often have strong relationships with members of their community and are more likely to support local causes.
3.They can offer unique merchandise. A locally owned clothing store probably won’t have hundreds of the same dress in stock, meaning that the chances of encountering someone wearing the exact same outfit as you are highly unlikely.
4.They contribute to the local economy. When money is spent in the community, it stays within the area, benefitting everyone who lives there.
5.They help with environmental sustainability. Small businesses are often located downtown rather then on the outskirts of a city, which cuts back on sprawl and pollution.
Don’t forget to stop by the DECSA Marketplace between 10am-3pm at 11515- 71 Street!
Clients from Ventures, an entrepreneurship program for people with disabilities here at DECSA, often attend the free lunchtime business seminars run by Capital !deas, at the Edmonton Journal. During these session, clients get the chance to learn from a panel of fellow business owners who share their advice on small business related topics. Capital !deas also sends out regular emails, posing business related questions to their subscribers, which are then published in the Edmonton Journal. Anne-Marie, Program Manager for Ventures, had her response featured in the latest issue. Here is what she had to say:
“Planning, strategy and time management according to cycles of the season make for a natural flow to sustainability, longevity and productivity. Start new projects in the spring, get outside and sell your product in the summer, and take stock and reap the rewards of hard work in the autumn. Then rest, regroup and revitalize in the winter.”
Great advice Anne-Marie! To read the rest of the advice offered, click here. To register for Ventures, you can contact Anne-Marie at 780-471-9655, or by TTY at 780-471-9635.