The CCMEI, a program designed to foster, support and educate local entrepreneurs, officially launched September 5th. The launch included a stakeholder engagement session as well as the “pilot” entrepreneurial boot camp. Stacy Kuiack, CCMEI project lead, explained the program is designed to explore and support the unique flavour of Fort McMurray entrepreneurship.
“One of the things we’ve noticed since we redeveloped the city centre is that there are a ton of entrepreneurs and small businesses struggling to get going, or to find their way or to deal with the aggressive growth levels and the high demand for their services up here and we would like to supply them with some training,” he said.
“In partnership with groups like NAABA (the Northern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association) and Community Futures and the like we can provide them with some access to those resources, give them some really hardcore business boot camp training. We are having conversations with stakeholders and entrepreneurs; we are talking to community-based groups that are set up to assist businesses. Also we are doing these boot camps to help train entrepreneurs over a two day intensive sort of like a bachelor of commerce 101 type of program.”
The inaugural boot camp started with a bang as Randy Thompson, who created Alberta’s first Internet Service Provider, ran the program. “He’s got a big personality and great experience. He’s really sort of grabbed them by the tails and shaken them around to let them know what’s coming and sort of demystify and deglamorize business in a lot of cases,” Kuiack described.
“It’s been really good. We’ve got a complete mix of entrepreneurs in there. We’ve got candle and chocolate makers, we’ve got some app builders, we’ve got a plumber, restaurateurs, taxi and variety store owners, just an amazing group. It’s really reflective of the small business that you see up in Fort McMurray that gets going, tend to comes out of the gate with an idea and is immediately met with this rushing river of demand. We don’t have to prove the market a lot, we just have to prove capacity and how you can keep up with it.”
Kuiack believes that by fostering small businesses, the community in turn will benefit. He stressed that those participating the in the boot camp sessions were not looking to make some quick money and leave, they are Fort McMurray based families. Much of participant’s conversations centered on how to have kids and run a business in the city. “These are real community minded people who will be here for a long time. So I think part of getting rid of this notion of fly in, fly out can be enhanced by fostering entrepreneurship and helping these small businesses along.”
The boot camps typically host between 17-20 entrepreneurs and put a lot of emphasis on interaction between the participants. Kuiack said organizers really try to set the stage for conversation, as participants tend to learn a lot more from each other than they would learn from organizers talking. Though they originally planned to host a handful of boot camp sessions, due to popular programs will continue to run through the fall, winter and into the spring of 2014.
For more information about CCMEI, including boot camp registration and availability, visit their website at www.citycentremcmurray.com/Entrepreneurship.