Orillia is ahead of the pack as Canada looks to foster female entrepreneurs.

As part of budget 2018, the federal government created the $20 million Women Entrepreneurship Fund, providing non-repayable contribution funding to female entrepreneurs. Across the country, women own fewer than 16 per cent of businesses, states Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. That is not the case in Orillia.

Women make up the majority of clients at Orillia’s Community Development Corporation (CDC), said general manager Wendy Timpano.

“The number of women entrepreneurs we serve here at the CDC is actually slightly more than half of all of our clients if you look at our loan clients and our coaching clients,” she said. “It’s neat that we’re leading edge for women entrepreneurs.”

In Orillia, Allison Abbott, owner of Dragonfly Room Salon Spa, recently got a significant business loan from the CDC. Dragonfly Room’s mandate is to be an environmentally friendly salon and spa and the loan got it a step closer. Abbott purchased a complete line of natural hair and skin care products for use and sale in her Matchedash Street North shop.

But Abbott said she got more than a repayable loan; she received support.

“Not everybody has a business degree, or any business knowledge at all,” Abbott said. “So the CDC gives you those support systems; and they can set you up with mentors that help you.”

ORI CDC Super Portrait - Orillia's female entrepreneurs at the forefront of change

Wendy Timpano is general manager of the Community Development Corp., located at 22 Peter St. S. in downtown Orillia. The CDC provides services, funding and workshops to help grow businesses. – Sara Carson/Metroland

Located in Orillia’s downtown arts district on Peter Street, the CDC helps new entrepreneurs and longtime business owners from Orillia, Oro-Medonte, Ramara, Severn, and Rama First Nation.

“We’re really a resource for entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for more information, or to connect into the community to resources that will help their businesses grow,” said Wendy Timpano, the CDC’s general manager.

The CDC provides business loans, employment subsidies, free one-on-one business coaching. They can help with business planning, financial projections, marketing, and they host professional development workshops and events. The CDC also has a business transition matching program for people who are buying and selling businesses.

Timpano noted the CDC has confidentially helped local businesses for 34 years.

“We looked back in some of the files and it’s amazing because some of the businesses are still around. And they’re highly successful businesses that the CDC was able to help way back when,” Timpano said.


Business loans

The CDC manages an approximately $4.5 million loan fund.

“It’s always there for the community,” Timpano said.

The CDC works with business owners — and often their bank — to determine what kind of financing package works best, Timpano said.


Helping new and successful businesses

Some entrepreneurs enter the CDC with only an idea, while others have been in business for decades.

“We have people who are ready to get started, and they come in, and they want help doing all the practical steps like getting their business registration, their master business license, setting up their HST accounts, setting up their books,” Timpano said. “We’ve had businesses who are 50-plus years in the community and they potentially have 50, 60, 70 employees and they’re looking to expand, grow, hire.”

Timpano describes the CDC’s five staff members as generalists.

“We’re not accountants, or lawyers, or experts in that regard, but we have the ability to go out and find the resources the clients need to make sure they get what they need to grow and succeed,” she said.


Buying and selling businesses

The CDC has turned its focus to a growing trend: Business owners are retiring and looking for entrepreneurs to buy their company.

“We want to make sure that businesses don’t just close their doors: That they look for opportunities to invite, or sell their business to young or other entrepreneurs who are willing to maintain that employment, and supply and service in our community,” Timpano said.

Canada-wide reports state that over 40 per cent of businesses will transition to new owners over the next five years, she said.

“It’s a huge number, and mostly due to retirement,” Timpano said.

The CDC has tapped into an online portal that connects buyers and sellers at a subsidized rate of $25 for three years. The buyers and sellers can be anonymous if they wish.

“Over the last few years we’ve had increasing numbers of people come in to us and say ‘I want to sell my business, but I don’t want to tell my employees; I don’t want to tell my suppliers; and I don’t want to tell the entire community,’” Timpano said. “We started realizing that there needed to be some way to connect and match buyers and sellers that would allow them some of that anonymity.”


Timpano encourages Orillia-area residents to shop local.

“That’s so important for our community and local businesses. It’s critical,” she said.


Source: Orillia Today