By Neil Armstrong
Nine aspiring entrepreneurs recently graduated from the YMCA of Greater Toronto - Ontario Works Self-Employment Programmeme with a commitment to succeed in their enterprising ventures.
They are: Recardo Robinson, Earl Letford, Charleen Shillingford, Wayne Young - all Jamaicans, Nadia Ibrahim, Laurie Lindsey, Kinga Burjan, Madeleine Colleran and Dhiman Choudhury. Their businesses include a residential cleaning service, advertising, creating lingerie, transforming vintage clothes into new outfits, financial services, hair stylist, a visual artist, sports performance/personal fitness trainer and a design artist.
The 8-week programme is intended to provide individuals considering self-employment with business knowledge. The YMCA is an established leader in managing self-employment programmes and taught the participants what it takes to develop, plan, start and manage a small business.
Carla Kendall, programme director of self-employment at the YMCA who has been administering the programme for the past 14 years told the graduates that their batch was a phenomenal group. “Each one of you has a job to do - to continue to be the best that you are,” she said and encouraged them to stay in contact with each other.
Participants - Kendall also told them that the feedback that she got from the panel of financial/business leaders who heard the business plan presentations of the graduates was very good. “These participants have been the best since you started the programme,” she was told by panel members.
Barb Williams, general manager of the YMCA Employment Programme for the last 14 years, told the graduates that they should be immensely proud of their feat. She underscored the importance of networking as a group and told the participants that the first year of their business will be full of bumpy paths but they should keep in touch with the YMCA for support during those times.
Williams encouraged them to get working on their business plan that they developed to concentrate on how they will develop their first customers. Amidst tears Nadia Ibrahim whose business is creating lingerie said she appreciated the support from the group.
“Everyone put me down and say ‘you can’t do it, it’s not going to work’ so when I come here and meet these people and they say ‘yes, you can do it’ it means so much, it feels so good,” said Ibrahim.
Decorating company In December 2011, Robinson of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica started 3R Designs, a decorating company in the weddings and special events industry. It specialises in customized draping artistry, transforming rooms with the use of fabrics of all colours, textures and patterns, draping full rooms, backdrops and ceiling drapery.
Robinson who has over 10 years of experience in wedding and events décor and draping artistry has worked for leading companies in the industry in Jamaica and Canada. It was his draping artistry which transformed the YMCA conference room into a graduation locale that attracted many YMCA staff to heap praise on him.
“I think it is much too short. It gives you all the business skills of operating a business, it was fun,” said Robinson about the programme. “I feel like I’m ready for the world,” said Shillingford whose business is hair styling. Letford, a sports performance/personal trainer, shared the story of securing a client who was a guest presenter at one of the 8-week classes in the programme.
He encouraged his colleagues to not only have a passion for what they do but to make money as well. Young underscored the importance of looking out for each other - “be willing to see others succeed,” he said. The graduates are required to meet monthly with the YMCA as they develop their business.