Rent-free store gives entrepreneurs-in-the-making a boost
Published On Wed, 13 Jun 2012
She has a sociology degree from the University of Toronto and experience in her field, but 33-year-old Jacquie St. Kitts has been on the job hunt for two years.
“I did everything right, but it’s not working for me,” she said. “Looking at job postings started making me feel nauseous.”
After too many mornings waking up wondering what to do, St. Kitts opted to turn a newfound passion for making soap into her livelihood — a track-switch that was clinched, she says, by the free retail space in Ascend, a new Black Creek-area store.
“It really made me say, ‘I’m really gonna give this a try,’ ” said St. Kitts, busily sticking barcodes on her brand of soap, “Sweeties,” in advance of the store’s grand opening Thursday.
Thirteen entrepreneurs-in-the-making, aged 18 to late 30s, will sell their wares at the store, including clothing, homemade jewelry, art and music, or services such as photography. All vendors have a connection to the Black Creek area.
The rent-free store is intended to be like “a rich person’s grandparents,” financial help with no strings attached, jokes Morris Beckford, executive director of Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services, which operates community programs including Youth Enterprise Network, which runs Ascend.
“It’s a support network. You get to test your ideas and not be worried that you’re going to end up, you know, in a shelter if you fail,” he said. “And our job is to help them not fail.”
Ascend does not stop at real estate on store shelves. The initiative also includes a six-month training program which teaches business plans, proper financing and marketing — “all the stuff that entrepreneurs should know how to do,” Beckford said.
For Farhia Warsame, Ascend is a way to make money while she pursues a social work degree at Seneca.
She’s been operating her small Muslim clothing business out of her home, and welcomes the opportunity to broaden clientele and increase sales.
“It means advancement for me. And I’ll be able to give back to the community,” she said. “When you have finances, you’re able to do a lot.”
The project is funded through a three-year Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, though those running the store hope to make it a permanent shop. Retailers are expected to donate 10 per cent of their gross revenue back into the store.
The store, at 2350 Finch Ave. W., will be staffed by Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services employees, and open seven days a week.
Article posted in Communities, Immigration, Multiculturalism