VIU Gives Students Accessibility to Succeed as Entrepreneurs

July 24, 2018 - 11:45am

With the support of Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) pilot program, people with disabilities will have the opportunity to learn about becoming their own boss. 

“Equipping people with the skills they need to thrive and succeed is vital. I’m proud of the work being done at Vancouver Island University to help people with accessibility challenges improve their quality of life and contribute to their communities,” says Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. 

The Co-operative Entrepreneur Training Program (CETP) will combine academic learning and mentorships to support students on their journey of becoming self-employed. 

“There are lots of hidden talents out there; it is about finding the right means to showcase it,” says Tanya Assaf, VIU instructor and Chair of the Workplace Essential Skills and Training Program (WEST).  

Due to barriers from disabilities, maintaining a typical 9-5 full-time job isn’t possible for some people with disabilities. Self-employment can offer the flexibility needed to accommodate people’s specific situations, by allowing individuals the freedom to work at home or in a setting comfortable to them, and they can set their own schedule. 

“Becoming self-employed can significantly increase the quality of life for these participants,” says Assaf. “It will allow them to become more independent and feel included in our community.”  

 Through her community outreach, Assaf realized there is a huge demand for this type of program, but nothing was being offered at the time. VIU developed the CETP to meet the needs of people with disabilities who have a desire to be successful entrepreneurs. 

“The program will provide individuals with skills to follow their passions and become creative thinkers,” says Assaf. “They will be immersed in real-life learning experiences where they can take risks, manage the results and learn from outcomes with ongoing faculty and community support.” 

When VIU was developing the program, instructors used some of the curriculum created for Natalie Parfitt, an alumna of VIU’s WEST program, as they supported her in opening a business. With a passion for animals, Parfitt had a desire to start her own dog walking company. VIU helped her market the business and connected her with a mentor. With the support of Anne Bright of K9 Unleashed Dog Hiking, Parfitt was introduced to what it is truly like to run a business. Bright connected Parfitt with clients, and now Parfitt successfully operates her own dog sitting/walking company called Dogs Dig Daycare.  

“Having a dog walking business has helped me be more confident in myself. I have learned to speak up and use my voice,” says Parfitt. “If you really love something, then you need to fight for it.” 

“Entrepreneurs help us build the best B.C., and we need more people like Natalie Parfitt who are stepping up to add their spark and energy to the economy at a grassroots level,” says Mark. 

With the support of a $75,000 grant from the provincial government, VIU can offer the CETP for the first time. This October, CETP will be offered to 12 participants with the intention of having the program continue. 

The 30-week full-time program will be a combination of academic courses focused on business and marketing, and mentorships within the community.  

“The program is unique in that participants are getting the academic education, but what makes it successful is partnering with the right mentor,” says Assaf. 

Upon completion of the program, students will receive a CETP certificate. With a business plan created and a network of community and VIU faculty support, students will have the tools they need to begin their entrepreneurial journeys.  

To learn more about the program contact Tanya Assaf at Tanya.Assaf@viu.caor 250-740-6162.



Rae-Anne LaPlante, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6673 | E:| T: @VIUNews

Tags: accessibility | disability | entrepreneurs | Teaching and Learning

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