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Hamilton Economic Development

Young Hamilton entrepreneurs to see boost through program expansion

More young Hamilton entrepreneurs will be able to receive help launching their small businesses through the expansion of a provincial program that provides training, mentorship and startup funding to youth.

The province is providing thPhoto of Sarah Bethune, Ballroom dancing studio owner who used the Starter Company programe city with $350,000 in additional funding for Starter Company — a key part of its youth jobs strategy — announced at the one-year celebration of the program’s Hamilton launch on Thursday.

“With such high youth unemployment, a lot of youth do try to start businesses,” said Rob Belchior, business development officer at the Small Business Enterprise Centre, noting Ontario’s youth unemployment rate hovers around 15 per cent. “But like anybody else starting a business, it’s really hard.”

With the new funding, up to 70 Hamilton youth aged 18 to 29 whose full-time business are less than a year old or who want to get one started can apply for a $5,000 grant. They can also receive mentorship from local business leaders and advice through the Small Business Enterprise Centre.

To date, approximately $135,000 has been given to Hamilton entrepreneurs through the program.

Young entrepreneurs can apply for funding through the SBEC until March 31, 2017. Recipients must be able to contribute at least 25 per cent of the grant amount, according to the province’s website.

So far, 28 grants have been handed out to young Hamilton business owners, whose companies range from bubble soccer rentals — the soccer players wear large, plastic bubbles — to commercial cleaning operations, to a public relations agency.

Training and business skills development — around business planning, marketing, financial forecasting, legal issues and taxation — has also been offered to 112 aspiring young business owners to help them get started.

“If we can help as many businesses as possible to succeed, they create a job for themselves, and a lot of them actually end up hiring people as they grow,” Belchior said.

Ballroom dancing studio owner Sarah Bethune used the Starter Company program when launching her business, Stepping Out Dance Company, which opened last October.

Her first year has been a “dream come true,” she said at Thursday’s celebration.

Before launching her business, networking and public speaking were two of her biggest challenges, she said.

“With the help of Starter Company and the Small Business Enterprise Centre, I was able to find my confidence, learn new skills and conquer my fears.”

Across Ontario, more than 2,000 young entrepreneurs have used the Starter Company program since it launched in the fall of 2013.

Article courtesy of Natalie Paddon, The Hamilton Spectator

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