Have you ever dreamed of starting your own business? The Township of Woolwich and the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre have teamed up with the Region of Waterloo Library to launch a four-part business seminar series called Start and Grow Your Own Business to help make that dream a reality.
The series, hosted by the Elmira library, kicks off Tuesday with “Ten Steps to Starting a Business,” from 7-9 p.m. Other seminars include “Writing a Business Plan” on Jan. 17, “Financing Your Business” on Mar. 20, and “Communicating and Marketing” on May 15.
According to the event’s organizers, self-employment is a concept that has gained a lot of traction in recent years, prompting the township and the Small Business Centre to offer this series.
“There seems to be a lot of interest for self-employment as an option,” said Roy Weber, a business consultant with more than 15 years of experience who works at the Waterloo branch of the Small Business Centre.
“I think particularly in this economy, with people losing their jobs to downsizing, people are taking a serious look at self-employment as an option over working for somebody else again.”
The seminar on Tuesday night will provide a general overview for those interested in becoming their own bosses, with subsequent evenings going more in depth on particular subjects.
“We look at the regulations required to set up a business, putting together a business plan, financing your business, staffing your business, and marketing your business,” explained Weber.
As home to Canada’s Technology Triangle, Waterloo Region has always been recognized as an area of high entrepreneurial spirit, but in the township especially the idea of becoming your own boss has really taken hold, says Woolwich’s economic development and tourism officer.
“In the township we have a very high level of entrepreneurship relative to other municipalities in the region, and that is something we want to encourage and foster,” said Laurel Davies-Snyder.
“I think the rural lifestyle has necessitated innovation and change in order to remain viable. There is also a lot of collaboration, and I think when you get people together and trying to achieve something, you get a great synergy of ideas.”
Davies-Snyder agreed with Weber’s suggestion that the sluggish economy has actually done wonders to create an air of self-employment across the region, in part because of the efforts of groups like the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre.
“There are mechanisms in place now to support entrepreneurs such as support groups and training,” she said.
“The economic downturn breeds innovation out of necessity, but also I think that the region has been excellent at supporting innovation and entrepreneurs.”
Yet it takes more than just the drive and desire to become an entrepreneur to make that dream a reality. It requires careful planning, and potential business owners really need to do their homework, said Weber.
The first step is to identify a business that has a viable market and for which the products or services created will be in demand.
“It’s an essential step.”
There is also the real possibility that many who are self-employed for the first time will struggle to shift their thinking from being an employee to being the boss, and it can take some time to adjust to that reality.
“We’ve lived most of our working lives reporting to somebody else, and it’s a totally different working structure. When you are your own boss, somebody isn’t telling you what to do, you basically have to know yourself.”
He also said that entrepreneurs should be optimistic – but at the same time realistic – with their plans and they should also consider their possible competition in the region. He gave the example of trying to open a coffee shop in town, and that between Tim Hortons, McDonalds and now Robins Nest, it would be a hard market to crack.
“You definitely have to have a good dose of optimism because nothing is a sure thing. That’s why you want to do your homework before you open the doors so you’re confident there will be a market for your business.”
In this economy where many would opt for the steady paycheque available by working for someone else instead of taking the risk of going at it on their own, Weber said that if you have a unique or marketable concept you should give it a shot, because even in a slow-moving economy there is never a bad time for a good idea.
The first of the four-part seminar series is on Tues., Nov. 29 from 7-9 p.m. at the Elmira library.
Admission is free for those who pre-register by contacting the library (519) 669-5477 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission will be $5 at the door for those who do not register beforehand.
Today (Saturday) Weber is also holding a fundraiser at the Elmira library for the Strong Start Literacy Program at the official launch of his holiday book, Unscrooged, in which Ebenezer Scrooge is once again visited by his old partner Jacob Marley and given the task of changing the heart of one earthly soul before midnight.
Weber will be signing and selling copies of the book at the library from 1-3 p.m.