Business

Pathway for youth to start their own business

Athena Theny often dreamed of being able to make and sell her jewelry, leather handbags and other creations in her own store.

Now her dream has been realized through Athena Atelier, her boutique in Vancouver.

Atelier is the result of Theny’s participation in the Youth Mean Business program, along with her extensive collaboration with business advisors, professors and social entrepreneurs in the community.

Athena’s success is one of the reasons government is extending the Youth Mean Business pilot project through to March 31.

Funded through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement (LMA), the provincial government is investing a total of nearly $2 million for the Youth Mean Business program, which helps youth (aged 18 to 29 years) work with business advisors to create sound business proposals that they can then develop into formal business plans.

The program provides up to $5,000 for each participant, some of which can be used as seed money for launching their business.

The pilot launched in June 2011, with an investment of $1.65 million through to October 2012. Government is investing an additional $337,900 to extend the program to the end of the fiscal year.

Before participating in Youth Mean Business, Theny was working in the mental-health field as a group facilitator and making jewelry and accessories on the side.

She sold some of her designs on consignment at local boutiques, but thought of her passion for design as a hobby rather than as something she could run as a business.

Through working with business advisors and using some seed funding from the program, she gained the skills necessary to put a plan into action and become the designer she had always wanted to be.

From June 2011 to Oct. 31, 2012, about 185 young people have participated in the Youth Mean Business program throughout the province, and have worked with business advisors to develop proposals to gain traction on their own business ideas.

The goal is to get to at least 226 by the end of March, 2013.

The YMCA of Greater Vancouver administers the Youth Mean Business program in Greater Vancouver, ETHOS Career Management Group in Victoria, and Community Futures in both Kelowna and Prince George.

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