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New youth bosses out to find success

Young entrepreneurs showcase wares at Espanola college expo

Jennifer Hansford
For Northern Ontario Business 

Starting your own business is not an easy endeavour.

But some young people in the Espanola and Manitoulin Island areas have had some help building their entrepreneurial goals with a program at the Espanola campus of Cambrian College.

The Young Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (YEDI) program is open to participants between the ages of 19 and 30. 

In the program, participants learn things such as making a business plan, applying for loans, and customer service. 

Celina Mantler, the program’s facilitator, said they also had mentorship sessions with some area businesses.

“We had at least 10 local entrepreneurs come to our class – or we went to their place of business – to share their experiences with the participants,” Mantler said. 

“This was a real inspiration for them and they learned a lot about perseverance and what it really takes to be a business owner.”

The Aug. 21 Expo at the college’s Espanola campus exhibited a mix of different up-and-coming businesses.

Chad Roberts, 29, created a mechanics shop idea, where he will be repairing small engines and power equipment. Though not open for business yet, he hopes to set up his shop in November or December and start doing service calls in the Espanola, Manitoulin Island, and Elliot Lake areas. 

“I’ve always worked a 9-to-5 job and worked in small engine repair most of my life, so I just decided it was time to branch out and do this on my own,” he said.

Roberts said the program helped him overcome the fear of failing. 

“I learned to just plant your feet on the ground and just go for it,” he added. “One of the biggest things this program (teaches us is) don’t be afraid of failure and you will succeed.”

Another young entrepreneur that is seeing her vision come to fruition is Gabby Mathis, 19, who created a bath and body care business called Bomb and Body.

Mathis wasn’t planning on starting her own business but was using this business idea to fundraise for her senior trip.

“I had a strangers asking me if they could buy some of my products, and it just took off from there,” she said.

Mathis makes her products and distributes them through retails in Sagomok, on Manitoulin, and in Espanola, while also displaying her wares at craft fairs.

“I try to do one event per month. I go to Sudbury, Hanmer, to the Island,” Mathis said. “I do like to do a lot of shows here in Espanola, just to keep it local, but I am trying to expand my reach.” 

Julie Casson, 23, turned her hobby of photography into a business with the encouragement of family and friends.

Though she enjoys taking photos of practically anything, she focuses on portraits, visiting clients in Birch Island, Gore Bay and Mindemoya on Manitoulin Island.

Casson said the program helped her to think about how far the business can go.

“It helped me be more professional and now I’m trying to grow my client base,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about just maintaining a business. It was a very collaborative class. We all learned from each other.”

Casson said what she likes most about her profession is that it doesn’t only make a difference for the clients, it also makes a difference for her as well.

“Supplying people with quality photos that will last a lifetime makes me feel like I’ve done something worthwhile, and I try to remind myself of that when I’m in a low-motivation mood,” she said.

The next YEDI program dates have yet to be determined, depending on future funding, but Mantler is proud of the work the participants have done.

“As the facilitator, I couldn’t be happier with how things worked out for this group. Our communities have so much to gain by supporting young entrepreneurs," she said.

“This program supports them in a real way by providing them with income, ongoing mentorship and group support as they navigate the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. I believe if we can continue with this program or other programs that are similar, we will really see the economic benefits in our local communities."