October 19 to 25 is Small Business Week and there are business showcases happening around the Cowichan Valley. Community Futures, based out of Duncan, is a business development organization that offers a variety of services from business planning advice to loans.
“We’re not a bank, but rather a rural development organization that provides business financing to small businesses,” says Marie Gallant, Executive Director, Community Futures British Columbia.
Community Futures Cowichan (CFC), located in Duncan, services the Cowichan Valley. Cathy Roberston, general manager of CFC, says that the business information and loan-granting decisions they share with clients are relevant to the Cowichan Valley.
“All of our decisions are made here, so whether you’re asking for $5,000 or $105,000, it is your community members that make that decision.”
Robertson goes on to share that the typical small business loans CFC grants are between $25,000 to $50,000 and they currently have 74 active clients.
“If you look back in our history,” says Robertson, “we’ve had over 800 clients and loaned about $23 million to the Cowichan Valley community.”
Robertson says CFC is a great place to start, whether you’re looking for a loan or someone to listen to your ideas.
“People want to test their idea and they want honest feedback on it. We’ll help you shape it and get your business plan together.”
Robertson also wants to hear from people who may not have had success with their business idea in the past.
“If anyone wants a second shot at their idea, if it wasn’t successful at another institution, come give Community Futures a try.”
Community Futures Cowichan will be at the Duncan Chamber of Commerce business showcase on Oct. 24. The showcase runs from noon to 6 p.m. at the Travelodge Silver Bridge Inn in Duncan. Visit cfcowichan.ca for more info on Community Futures, and contact the Duncan Chamber of Commerce for more information.
Community Futures: five tips for small biz
1. Have SMART goals – The best business plan is flexible with measurable and realistic goals. Along with a solid Plan A have a well thought out Plan B. We help our clients focus on realistic revenue projections, expense management, and where they want their business to be 1, 2 and 3 years later.
2. Cash is king – Being profitable only on paper doesn’t mean all is ok. Business owners need to keep a close eye on money owed to them as well as money they owe. Margins may be great, but if you are not collecting at the same rate you have to pay important expenses like payroll and taxes, it could be the end of your business.
3. Study the competition – Keep your friends close and your competition closer. Learn from their mistakesand study them to learn how you can make your business better.
4. Don’t stop believing – and don’t stop learningIt takes time and patience to get your brand/business name out there. As a small business owner you are the business. An investment in yourself as a business owner is an investment in the business. Organizations like Community Futures allow you to get support and feedback as you grow your business. Also consider other key experts such as lawyers and accountants.
5. Treat your employees like customers – Your employees are your internal customers; be open to hearing their feedback. Hire the right fit for your organization’s culture. Team meetings and written policy can be helpful, because you want to make sure your employees understand what is expected of them and what you want in return. How your employees deal with situations, questions and special requests are things you need to make sure they understand before they get in front of clients.