Central Alberta entrepreneur program shuts its doors

Provincial funding ends

A program that assists central Alberta entrepreneurs will come to an end on March 31.

Provincial funding for Catapult Entrepreneurs, which has operated out of the Red Deer Downtown Business Association, will end after three years.

“Catapult was specifically designed to help entrepreneurs in that very, very early start-up stage. There’s nothing working with entrepreneurs at that stage,” said association executive director Amanda Gould.

“We’re sad to see it go. It was a great program.”

Most of the 54 program clients spent 12 to 18 months in the program, and 38 clients are still in business.

She said Catapult assisted people who had business ideas, but didn’t know what to do next. Originally, funding was available to participants for tasks such as marketing. When that funding ended, they were still able to access training and coaching.

More than 500 training and 700 coaching sessions were held during the three years.

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Catapult coach and trainer Danielle Klooster said while not all of the clients developed businesses, there were some really good results.

“A lot of good came out of it. There are businesses in existence today that are growing, and hiring employees, and we feel very proud and privileged to have been a part of that,” Klooster said.

She said the initiative started as a two-year pilot program under the provincial NDP government. Support was extended for another year by the NDP prior to the election, and the UCP government chose not to provide any more funding.

She said Catapult came to the community at a critical time during the economic slowdown.

“It was recognized the need to diversify the economy, and entrepreneurship, is the path to economic diversification.”

Klooster said supporting early-stage entrepreneurs would be a sensible road to continue down, as Alberta faces a bigger economic slowdown with no end in sight.

Gould said central Albertans will now have to look outside of the region for help. The downtown business association has no plans right now to develop a similar program.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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