City plan helps launch young entrepreneurs

Hopeton La Touche glanced up from the podium.

“I would like to promote and encourage employment within the Lawrence Heights community,” he said.

The 21-year-old entrepreneur was delivering his mission statement in front of a six-member panel of business industry professionals at Toronto’s City Hall.

He emphasized that a major goal for CaveMan, his small music production studio, is to create jobs in Lawrence Heights, the west-end neighbourhood of Toronto where he lives.

La Touche was part of the Youth Micro Loan pilot project, launched in July, last year by the City of Toronto in partnership with the private sector. The program supports people 18-to-24 who are unable to meet lending criteria at traditional financial institutions. It targeted youth living in 13 priority neighbourhoods in the city’s west end. Participants received 12 weeks of life skills coaching combined with one-on-one business mentoring.

On Feb. 11, La Touch and six other participants pitched their business plans to gain feedback from the panel of seasoned mentors, including Sandro Giannini, a small business manager with the Royal Bank of Canada..

“Congratulations,” Giannini said at the end of La Touche’s presentation. “You’re doing something a lot of us would never risk, taking a hobby and getting paid for it … You’re so skilled and talented, I think you should be working for more than the amount you stated.”

Carla Kendall is a business consultant for the Youth Micro Loan program.

“You see individuals come in with phenomenal ideas,” she said. “The main thing we strive for is getting those ideas out of their heads and transferring them onto paper.”

Once they have finalized their business plans, participants are eligible to apply for a loan of up to $5,000 to get the ball rolling.

La Touche said he planned to act as audio engineer and composer at CaveMan studios, which will provide a variety of services, including audio engineering, production advisory, music video creation and Rhythmic Top 40 instrumentals to signed and unsigned musical artists.

“We encourage new age creativity, new sound, and ethnic appreciation of the various styles of music we come into contact with in Toronto,” he said.

La Touche ended his presentation with an annual business forecast. His goal: a total of $14,000 in profit for the first year of business appears to be realistic to the panel. He said the $5,000 loan will be put towards computer and equipment upgrades.