Share Your Story: Community Futures Sun Country
Sound business plans result in self-confidence
Deb Arnott - Community Futures Sun Country
By Shari Narine
Creativity, says Deb Arnott, is what she gives and gets back from her Indigenous-run small business clients.
“I really appreciate the creativity of the clients. They’ve taught me a lot,” said Arnott, who serves as general manager for Community Futures Sun Country, out of Ashcroft, B.C. “At the beginning, people are being very careful, especially if they’re getting a loan. But what I do find is that over time they become more creative and think, ‘Maybe I can do this,’ because it’s built their self-confidence.”
And that self-confidence comes from a realistic business plan, which Community Futures helps develop because many first-time business operators haven’t factored everything into their decision-making process.
“What they might find, they’re looking at doing a full time business and once we develop a business plan they might go, ‘You know what, maybe I should be doing this part time, just until my life changes and the kids get a little bit older,’” said Arnott. “That’s what I love about it. We can mould it to fit their lifestyle.”
Community Futures Sun Country has been working with small businesses for 30 years. Aboriginal clientele now accounts for about 20 per cent of the workload.
“I see a lot of younger Indigenous women looking at opportunities to do their business. Some of them are in their 30’s and they want to still be home to raise their kids and take care of their families still so it kind of works for their lifestyle right now,” said Arnott.
Many such small businesses start off on band land and, depending on the services or product they’re marketing, they soon recognize that their reach has to be broader in order for them to be profitable.
Business counselling is an important service, says Arnott.
“We need to know if it’s going to be feasible for them,” she said.
Community Futures Sun Country also provides small business loans.
“And for many of our Indigenous clients, they don’t have all the assets some would have in the rest of the community. So as Community Futures, we definitely look at the high risk, we look at the situation, and we lend on character. That’s really important to us,” said Arnott.
Community Futures Sun Country also provides ongoing monthly mentorship.
Success rate is high for Community Futures’ Indigenous small business owners, Arnott notes, with about 75 per cent still in business.
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