Niagara College’s Business Development Centre celebrated 20 years of supporting budding entrepreneurs today with a Breakfast of Champions event that brought together staff, business advisors and clients who have made the successful journey from unemployment to self-employment.
Established in 1992 as the Niagara College Innovation Centre, Niagara College’s Business Development Centre has provided more than 2,500 entrepreneurs with entrepreneurship skills training, many of whom have gone on to successfully launch their own businesses. Collectively, these clients have gone on to earn millions of dollars in revenue while creating new jobs in the Niagara region.
“Our Business Development Centre is one of the important ways that Niagara College supports economic development in Niagara,” said president Dan Patterson. “We have hundreds of clients whose success in business shows that with the right kind of guidance and support, self-employment can be a viable solution to unemployment. It’s a solution that creates jobs and contributes greatly to economic growth in our community.”
In its 20-year history, the BDC has administered federal and provincial programs aimed at helping individuals find success through self employment. Currently, the Business Development Centre’s program is funded through Employment Ontario. Eligible, unemployed individuals participate in the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit program by attending an information session and submitting a business concept. If approved for the program, participants attend an intensive two-week Business Basics course that includes the development of a business plan. Qualified business advisors mentor and provide guidance to the participant, over a 42 week period, during which time the participant also receives income support or continues to receive their employment insurance.
“We offer a one-stop shop for new business development,” said Fiona Allan, director of Niagara College’s Workforce and Business Development division. “We provide individuals who have a viable idea with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to create and implement a successful business plan.”
Among the BDC’s successful clients is Ron Rempel. Rempel came to Niagara in the late ’90s. He was unemployed, had strong masonry skills — especially with historical buildings — and wanted to start his own business. He turned to the BDC, started his own business without any financing and has found significant success. He employs 10 people, is recognized as a master of historical masonry work locally and beyond – and he’s even done work on the parliament buildings in Ottawa. All of this started with the business plan he developed with assistance and guidance from the BDC.
“The success I’ve found in business wouldn’t have been possible without Niagara College’s Business Development Centre,” said Rempel. “I had strong masonry skills and a desire to build a successful business – the BDC gave me the business knowledge and support I needed to realize that dream.”
The Breakfast of Champions event also featured a panel of successful clients who discussed the challenges and opportunities that come with self-employment and entrepreneurship. Joining Rempel on this panel were Ryan Anderson, who operates Outdoor Ball Hockey Ltd.; Michele Auger, the 2009 Niagara Entrepreneur of the Year winner who operates Finesse Fabrics and Home Décor in St. Catharines; and Nadia Baronas, who operates Nadia’s Market.