Partners collaborate to source effective speakers for Tuesday gatherings
With tourism and agriculture among the largest sectors of its economy, Prince Edward County is a busy place in the summer.
Often, that makes the winter the only plausible time for local business owners and staff to take advantage of opportunities for further training and information gathering.
With that in mind, the Small Business Centre (SBC), the Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Community Futures Development Corporation (PELA CDFC), and the County’s community development department have been pooling their resources to ensure they can offer the best opportunities for their clients.
To that end, the Winter Survival Workshop Series is back at the Picton Town Hall for a fifth year with events running Tuesdays through until March.
SBC counsellor Sandy Abbott said in her experience, the collaboration is special in Prince Edward County.
“It’s an amazing partnership,” she said. “The county is very collaborative that way in general and when I go to other places I realize it is a bit different there.”
Representatives from all three organizations come together at the start of the winter to brainstorm topics, relying on their own individual experiences. PELA CFDC brings knowledge from its interactions with loan and grant clients. The community development department conducts business retention and attraction studies where it learns about trends across sectors of the local economy. This year, it is studying the arts sector. Abbott meets one-on-one with numerous small business operators to coach and she’ll sometimes come across shared areas of interest.
Each organization uses some of its strengths to make the events a success. The County handles registration, Abbott sources speakers, and PELA CFDC offers financial support. All of the speakers are experienced, known personalities.
“You have to really know your topic if you’re going to be standing there for three hours,” Abbott reasoned. The sessions have been well received. “We decided we would always run them when it is quieter and people have time to come in and spend a couple hours. You’re learning new skills, but also remotivating yourselves and getting a shot in the arm in the dead of winter,”Abbott said. “They’re always full and we always have a waiting list.”
Before Christmas, there were sessions on QuickBooks software and on cyber security. This week, Penny Tremblay, a business advisor for the PARO peer lending circle offered a talk on networking strategies to increase sales, then held a special session for women interested in peer-lending circles.
Over the next two weeks, Jessica Burrows will be the guest speaker. She’ll discuss updates to the Occupational Health and Safety Act on Jan. 15 and give a step-by-step guide to developing a workplace violence and harassment policy Jan. 22.
“She’ll walk people through what you have to have, who needs to be involved, and what the procedures would be,” Abbott said. “You’re walking out with a fairly fleshed-out draft version of what you need to have.”
Another legislation-triggered workshop with a date yet to be released is a lecture by Ministry of Labour employment standards officer Chantal Guninczki-Young on the ever-changing Employment Standards Act.
“A lot of things changed and then they changed again,” Abbott said of the importance of that particular workshop.
Abbott said both speakers on the OHSA and the ESA are the ones the Ministry of Labour uses, ensuring they have the best, most up-to-date information.
Also on this year’s calendar, LaunchLab entrepreneur in residence Scott Runte will talk about the financial section of business plans — an area many entrepreneurs may struggle with.
“When you’re writing a business plan, they want to see your two-year cash flow,” Abbott said. “A lot of us do it like a Grade 12 essay you’re writing to get out of school. It’s important to actually understand what you’re putting in it and to go back and revisit it after a couple months to see where you are off.”
Sam Khan, an E-commerce guru from LaunchLab will also visit to discuss strategies that could ensure year-round stability.
There will also be two hands-on workshops with Software Simplified’s Lorrie Watts on beginner and intermediate Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and a session for Prince Edward County Arts Council members on Word Press.
“We have 13 things we’re putting on this year. It’s a mix of fairly small hands-on, very skill-based training and others workshops with a larger group lecture format,” Abbott said, adding she’s also impressed by the networking that often takes place.
To register for workshops, participants can look for ads weekly in the Gazette, visit the Small Business Centre web site at www.smallbusinessctr.com/events/month, the PELA CFDC Facebook page, or www.buildanewlife.ca/winter-survival-workshops. Registration will not open until dates are posted in those locations. Notices will also include pricing and technical requirements (like laptops).