Good news for aspiring entrepreneurs in Eeyou Istchee; you can learn all about developing your business idea and writing your business plan from the comfort of your own home in an easily-accessible online course offered by Sabtuan Continuing Education.
The course is given by Heritage College, based in Gatineau, Quebec and is taught by Todd Evans, who has been working in various aspects of the business world for over 30 years.
“It was very interesting,” said Evans of the inaugural 30-hour course that ran from April until June of this year.
“I learned a lot myself about all of the different agencies like the Eeyou Economic Group. I used a lot of their information on their website to make it more pertinent to the people in the class and tailored it to the Native businesses.”
Fifteen entrepreneurs learned how to judge if their idea is a viable one and if so, how to get it off the ground. At least one person, according to Evans, has already started writing their business plan in hopes of getting a jump-start on the second phase of the 300-hour total course that recommences in September.
“They are all viable business ventures,” Evans told the Nation. “They weren’t far-fetched ideas. They were all grass roots businesses like restaurants or hotels or guiding businesses. They were all real businesses that can easily be started.”
The unique online classroom, offered in other courses by the college, enabled people from Mistissini, Waswanipi and Wemindji to learn together at the same time, despite the obvious distance between the communities.
“It was pretty good once we had all the technical things out of the way,” he said. “It’s like you’re having a conversation online with a headset. You can email back and forth and there is a white board that everyone can write on and see. I can send website links and attachments so they get it all at the same time.”
The course is offered to all Eeyouch for free through the Cree School Board and Evans also said that the after support within the communities makes for a plethora of support.
“You can get funding if the business plan makes sense,” he said. “The impression that I get is the Cree Nation is promoting people to start their own businesses. All the help is there to make it happen.”
Lise Benard, Heritage College’s Director of Continuing Education, said that now that the first part of the course is over, the next part would focus more intensely on building a business plan. Newcomers to the course are welcome to apply as well.
Other skills they want to provide include business communications, marketing, accounting, business law in Aboriginal communities and sales techniques.
“We were really quite happy with the interest,” said Benard, who added that the only pre-requisites to take the course are a secondary four education or equivalent.
“We were very excited to see the amount of interest in the program,” she continued.
“The number of people who called us, who did everything to get signed up on time, it was wonderful to see. I think there is a big push right now and people are more and more interested in doing this online. The proof is that it worked.”