They’re young, they’re ambitious, and thanks to the support of a youth entrepreneurship program, they’re ready to launch their new businesses.
Vernon’s newest entrepreneurs have officially wrapped up Community Futures North Okanagan’s Fresh Trax program. Funded by the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada through the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement, Fresh Trax equipped business-minded youth aged 15-29 with the skills, tools, coaching and funds needed to take a business from idea to launch in 16 weeks.
“Fresh Trax has really helped me take my business a lot more seriously. It helped give me a foundation and solid business plan,” says Theo Hansen, a musician and professional music instructor who teaches students how to DJ through his business Theo Hansen Music. “I was just looking for extra part-time work, went to Community Futures North Okanagan and it all sounded almost too good to be true. It truly has been a golden opportunity for me and my business.”
Separated into two parts, Fresh Trax kicked off with 10 weeks of business development. Each week, Hansen and other members of his cohort used interactive digital business planning tools and engaged in virtual group workshops and one-on-one mentoring. In the final six weeks, the participants took the findings of their self-paced learning and put them to work while implementing their business plans.
Throughout the program, participants also received living supports to help make building and launching a new business possible.
When Louis Saitowitz first heard about the program, he was skeptical. The Red Seal chef already had years of business experience behind him but sought extra support as he shifted into the owner-operator role of Okanagan Foothills Poultry.
Saitowitz sought to expand Okanagan Foothills Poultry through an innovative approach to expanding farmland. By renting land from local property owners, Saitowitz can expand production while the landowner earns money and the multiple benefits of farm status.
That’s when he met the Community Futures North Okanagan team and signed up for Fresh Trax.
“Fresh Trax is one of those opportunities that doesn’t come up often. I believe it’s time well spent,” says Saitowitz. “Even as someone who had business knowledge, it was good to go through the program. It was a great explanatory course that answers what it means to start a business, step by step.”
The program helped Saitowitz better understand the process for many of the administrative tasks he had done in the past. But, for Saitowitz, the real value was growing his network and hearing others’ business stories.
“I loved hearing how guest speakers started their businesses, got over the humps and refused to give up,” says Saitowitz. “You leave the program with the resources you need and a great support team standing behind you.”
Kitty Boda also had three years of experience running Miscellany + Co. before enrolling in Fresh Trax. Like many creators, Boda turned her passion for making wooden spoons, cold-pressed soaps and floral arrangements into a side business. After finishing the 2021 harvest at her farming job, Boda shifted her focus to Miscellany + Co.
“I came into it thinking Fresh Trax will help me figure out bookkeeping and the administrative side of my business. It did that, but it also got to the emotional side and talked about how to run a business sustainably,” says Boda. “It gave me a lot more confidence. I’m investing in myself and my business, and I can already feel it paying off.”
Before Fresh Trax, Boda says she felt like she was “just winging it. Now, I feel like I know what’s worked. I’m winging it wisely.”
To learn more about Community Futures North Okanagan entrepreneurship programs, visit futuresbc.com.
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