Program Helps VIU Students Develop Commercial Enterprises

Program Helps VIU Students Develop Commercial Enterprise

VIU CETP graduate Anthony Martin is carving his way with a new business venture - Anthony's Workshop.

August 25, 2020 - 8:30am

VIU business training program helps remove barriers to self-employment for persons with disabilities.

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Cooperative Entrepreneur Training Program (CETP) provides students with disabilities the skills they need to develop robust business plans and secure funding to launch their business initiatives.

Entrepreneurship is one option for persons with disabilities to make a better life for themselves and their families and to contribute to their local economy rather than rely on government assistance. However, the idea of entrepreneurship is often dismissed based on the challenges faced by being self-employed. CETP was designed to address those barriers and provide opportunities for people with disabilities to develop their unique skills and start their own business.

The 30-week full-time program offered remotely this September will be a combination of academic courses focused on business, marketing and mentorships within the community and is fully funded for qualifying applicants with the aid of a BC provincial government grant.

Four graduates from the 2019 program, despite extraordinary challenges created by COVID-19, persevered with faculty and community support to launch their new business ventures.

Anthony Martin, owner of Anthony’s Workshop, started carving cedar with chainsaws as a hobby after becoming disabled in his former career. To turn his new passion into a sustainable business, Martin enrolled in the CETP program.

“I was hesitant about returning to school as a mature student, but the level of support I received gave me the confidence and skills that have brought my business to a level beyond my expectations.”

Jonathan Bugley, another program participant, created Bugley Entertainment, a party and event performance company.

“I’m leaving the program with a researched business plan, a great marketing plan – including my own website and social media – and I have been able to access funding to get my business started. Bugley Entertainment is only the beginning, and I am excited that I can follow my passion to bring joy into the world.”

The small class developed close connections with each other that sparked collaboration amongst the students. Jordan Becker, who started his own music education and therapy business, Harmony and Dissonance, also became a partner in Bugley Entertainment.

“There were so many opportunities that emerged in CETP,” says Becker. “I now have a better eye for how my business can provide value in the marketplace. I feel like I have really grown as a professional, and I am more confident and capable of achieving my dream of self-employment.”

Nick Therriault, who is a graduate of the Workplace Essential Skills and Training (WEST) program, which supports people with disabilities gain workplace skills, enrolled in the CETP with the goal of creating a business which would help other people with disabilities. Therriault created Nick on Sports, a subscription service for people with cognitive disabilities.

“With a love of professional sports, I write feature stories about hot topics in sports that give people with cognitive disabilities applicable conversational topics. As a person living with autism, I have found that sports help me connect with people. I want to give the same experience to others.”

Amy Woermke, the lead instructor in the program, connected students with entrepreneurs and supports across Vancouver Island, including the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Innovation Island and Community Futures. Working with Kelly McBride, Business Development & Credit Officer with Community Futures, the students were able to secure start-up funding through the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities program.

“I was really impressed with the quality of the students’ business plans, and it was such an honour to work with such amazing, motivated students,” she says. “When members of the disability community rise to the entrepreneurial challenge, we should rally around them in support. It’s not just good for their business, it benefits us all.”

The CETP is open for applications for the September 2020 intake. For more information on the program, please contact



Annette Lucas, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.618.7296 | E: 


Tags: Business | Cooperative Entrepreneur Training | Workplace Essential Skills and Training | Teaching and Learning

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