May 8, 2019 - 3:30pm
Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) new Cooperative Entrepreneur Training Program (CETP) is supporting people with disabilities to actualize their dreams by giving them the knowledge and tools to start their entrepreneurial journey.
Jolene Trigg, one of first students participating in the first cohort of the CETP, says her disability presented her with an opportunity to create a unique mobile yoga company.
Shortly after completing her yoga certification in Greece, Trigg fell and broke her tailbone. This is the incident which she recalls the insidious onset of her later diagnosed a Post Trauma Vision Syndrome diagnosis, which is caused by trauma to the brain. Her dreams of teaching yoga were suddenly put on hold.
“I went from being a capable body to being crippled. I thought I would never be able to do what I was destined to do,” she says. “This program has shown me that I am capable of reaching my dreams no matter what challenges or adversity I have faced.”
With the encouragement and knowledge from VIU faculty and her fellow classmates, Trigg was able to change her mindset of what being a yoga instructor meant.
“I had to change my perception of what a capable body is in order to continue my own practice,” she says. “I realized that everyone can do yoga regardless of any physical limitations. So, I designed my business, All Bodies Capable (ABC) Yoga, to meet people where they are at and focus on postures, breathing and conscious connection.”
The new program emerged from VIU Instructor Tanya Assaf’s realization that some of her students in the Workplace Essential Skills and Training Program (WEST) program, which supports people with disabilities gain workplace skills, needed another avenue to seek meaningful employment.
“She saw students with some incredible skills and talents that could really benefit from owning their own business,” says Linda McCandless.
The CETP program is for students with a cognitive or developmental disability who have a desire to put into action a viable business idea.
“We interview our students prior to acceptance into the program to see if they would be a good fit and to discuss their business aspirations,” says McCandless. “We give students the knowledge and confidence to be able to launch their business by the end of the program.”
The small class developed close connections with each other that sparked a strong collaboration effort in the classroom. For example, Matt Allers, who aims to start his own web design company, Analytical Web Design, offered to help his peers Natalie Parfitt and Cheri Devost design their company websites.
Devost decided to combine her passion for supporting the elderly and making people feel beautiful by opening up a mobile spa business, Wellness on Wheels. She offers massage and nail services to people in the comfort of their own homes.
Jada Morison’s business helps children and adults learn sign language, and over time she would like to work as a sign language interpreter. “My mom helped me with coming up with a name for my business – Hear for You,” says Morison. She says her classmates supported her in promoting her business and helped with the research for her business plan. “It was a real collaborative effort from all of us.”
Parfitt, who is a WEST program graduate and already has experience working as a dog walker, decided to take the program to develop her skills further and grow her business. “It’s been a great opportunity to grow my connections in the community,” she says. Parfitt owns Dogs Dig Daycare, a dog walking and sitting service.
The CETP puts a strong emphasis on building connections with other businesses in the community. After completing their marketing and communication courses, the students are matched with a business mentor to complete a three-week internship.
“This is really key for the success of any entrepreneur – to have those community connections and learn from other successful business owners on how to put your passion into practice,” says McCandless.
Applications for the September 2019 intake are now being accepted.
Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University