The York Region Small Business Enterprise Centre
(YSBEC) has launched a new ambassador program, which its organizers believe to be the first of its kind in the province.
The provincial government established a network of these Small Business Enterprise Centres
in conjunction with municipalities across Ontario about 20 years ago. That network now numbers 57 centres, which provide a range of services including free business development assistance, help with licensing and registration, and networking events.
The YSBEC serves the six northern and smaller municipalities in York Region: Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Newmarket, and Whitchurch-Stouffville. (The larger, southern York Region municipalities--Markham, Richmond Hill, and Vaughan--each have their own separate centres.)
"Each one of the centres is there to help people get started in business, and help early growth stage business," explains Dan Ruby, a small business consultant with the YSBEC. They provide free consulting services that "can help you with your business planning, access to financing, sales, and marketing" and other start-up issues small business face.
"If you think of us as if we were a general practitioner," Ruby goes on, "if we were to diagnose an issue of concern that is beyond the scope of a general practitioner, we would send you to a specialist. The ambassadors are like our specialists."
Essentially, the consultants that are routinely available at the centre are able to provide business development support, but sometimes a client needs expertise in a particular field: accounting or digital media or branding or the like. The new ambassadors—the centre has about a dozen—are specialists in these and other areas, and the centre's clients can come to them for free sector-specific advice when they need it.
To provide maximum flexibility, clients can now access ambassadors via three different channels: at quarterly events, where "expert corner" roundtables are set up, through a direct referral from the centre, and online, via a new system called MENTORup, which is "kind of like eHarmony for mentors and small businesses," says Ruby.
Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Dan Ruby, Small Business Consultant, York Region Small Business Enterprise Centre (Newmarket Region)