It’s hard to start a business, but help is now available. Local libraries offer a program for those hoping to make their dreams come true.
The Toronto Public Library in collaboration with the Toronto Business Development Centre and the city of Toronto offers the eight-week program called Business Inc. It’s designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop their businesses.
It is offered at three library locations: Northern District, Albion, and Scarborough’s own Agincourt.
It starts in mid-April and ends in the beginning of June. The program is designed as a series of modules meant to assist aspiring entrepreneurs start their own small venture or help current business owners expand their reach.
“There’s a long tradition of libraries supporting local economies and local business,” says Magdalena Vanderkooy, area manager for Malvern, Cedarbrae and Albert Campbell districts. “We’ve always had the reference books in the past. Now they’re available online. Plus, we’ve got all the traditional books, magazines and audiobooks.”
Unlike a traditional business course available at community colleges, Business Inc. reaches out to Toronto communities far from the city core with the help of library infrastructure.
“Together we worked on a curriculum,” Vanderkooy says. “Different modules that help people understand what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, the kind of market research, how to do successful marketing, the operating framework and financing.”
The program has been offered annually since 2011 when it sparked a lot of interest.
“It really helps people who have no idea how to begin a business,” says Kevin Sum, a Scarborough-based entrepreneur who participated in 2012. “It teaches you how to find resources and how the library can help.”
Sum’s IT software business is still in development, but the skills he learned at Business Inc. have been instrumental.
“It helped to find financing,” says Sum. “It helped me understand where to make network connections, and gave me the understanding of the importance of market research and consumer needs.”
Although the program is offered at three locations, there is a cap of 20 participants per location.
“There’s an intimacy that develops in the group,” Vanderkooy says. “Every week people talk about what progress they have made towards starting up their business, and through that process there is a lot of sharing. And so they help each other.”
Sum maintains contact with his fellow peers. Although most entrepreneurs are local, he hopes to launch his own business globally.
“We’re all in contact via email,” says Sum. “It’s important to keep in touch with each other. My viewpoint is that anyone could be your customer.”