- Our Town
LEAP Barnraiser supports success of six entrepreneurs
There was a palatable nervous energy as more and more people dressed for the affair streamed into the Creston Golf Club restaurant, sipped red wine and ate a selection of canapés as they milled around six young entrepreneurs that waited for the clock to strike six and the evening to officially commence. There was a hum of live music as participants (past and present) straightened business cards or prepared their short presentations. Friends and family were there, signing in and receiving their packages. There was talk of business and politics and weather (though not necessarily in that order). Finally, program facilitator Amber McGregor took the microphone.
“I am so proud of these six people that have successfully survived the 13-week Local Economic Accelerator Program (or LEAP),” began McGregor, “but I am also so proud of those I see in front of me – there is almost 90 of you standing here, ready to support and encourage. But while we are all here to help and guide these six participants, I also want us to think about the small business culture in Creston, and how we are going to continue to help all entrepreneurs reach their business goals.”
Kootenay Employment Services Executive Director Hugh Grant also spoke of a healthy small business community and the LEAP program. “In order to grow, we need either smokestacks or small businesses,” said Grant, “and I’m not interested in smokestacks. I can tell you that I was hesitant that a program could help young entrepreneurs in only 13 weeks, but it does. It is successful, and it does work.”
McGregor discussed the success of past participants – including Ilana Cameron (of Lark Coffee Roasters) and Aaron Carter (of On the Farm Welding). “We are not just investing in small businesses; we are investing in people,” said McGregor. “When we walk around and listen to what these six LEAP-ers tell us about themselves and their businesses, I want you all to consider whether you will be a business customer or a capital investor; or whether you are interested in network referral, or can assist in assets and resources.”
The crowd was then broken into groups of fifteen, and each LEAP participant had ten minutes to pitch their idea and answer questions before the groups moved around the room.
Danika Peltzer of Luv at First Bite Desserts and Confections spoke about her passion for creating artisanal sweets using local ingredients and flavours. Born and raised in Creston, she trained and worked in Kelowna before returning home. “I believe each dessert is a work of art, a gift to each of my guests, and so they are handcrafted with individual attention and care that respects the ingredients used,” said Peltzer. “My product is now available for purchase at Fly in the Fibre and I will be regularly attending markets while I look for ways to expand my business.” After sampling her work, the crowd was convinced that Peltzer’s products tasted as good as they looked.
Dylan Fladhamer of Coffee and Arrows Paleo Coffeebar is working with his partner Crestonite Cherie Luke to create an inclusive café. “We want a place where those with food sensitivities, allergies and special diets can come and eat without feeling that they have to do without,” said Fladhamer. “We are opening a space that makes it possible for everyone to eat with pride in the local ingredients, delight in all the tasty guilt-free options, and participate in a movement to reduce waste and positively impact the environment.” Working towards a zero-waste, inclusive coffeehouse with later hours resonated with the crowd, as did Fladhamer’s focus on health, community and environment.
Warren Amas of Grass Roots Rod & Custom spoke of his auto restoration and customization shop. With over twelve years’ experience in the industry, Amas spoke of his enthusiasm for vintage automobiles. “I’m interested in every step that goes into restoring and preserving the classics. Over the years, collectors keep asking for specialized work in old iron and I’ve built a good reputation in the industry,” said Amas. Winning numerous car show awards, most recently for his work on a Ford Model A, Amas believes that “no job is too big or too small, and sometimes customers just need some help with an aspect that they are not familiar with. I think it also helps to be centrally located within the Kootenays.”
Rachele Justus of Kind Cosmetics has developed a brand new line of cosmetics. “Using as many organic materials as possible, I am focusing on beauty from the inside out,” said Justus. “I didn’t like using products with ingredients I couldn’t recognize and I didn’t like the marketing and message behind major brand cosmetics, so I decided to create my own. I want my customers to feel as good about what they put on their skin as they do about who they are deep down.” Justus has created a velvet cream blush, silky satin eye shadow, luxurious mineral foundations, and delicately sensuous lotions made from specially sourced ingredients. While the crowd sampled some of the products, Justus spoke of expanding her line and hosting pre-teen girl cosmetic workshops.
Lauren Sarnat of Ancient Touch Massage recently moved from Alberta where she was a registered massage therapist, and is now working towards registration in BC. In the meantime, she is offering rejuvenating, pampering and relaxation sessions. “Too often we think of massage as trying to fix something, and we forget about the relaxation aspect of it. Stress affects the mind and body, and our relationship with those around us. Relaxation massage can help in so many ways. I am interested in being mobile so I help customers in their home. I’ve only been here since November, but I’m already in love with the area and the outdoors,” said Sarnat as she encouraged the crowd to put their names in a draw for a free massage.
Heather Viers, sole artist and operator of Zenith Henna, has been doing henna artistry for five years and has traveled to California to learn from world-renowned artists at training workshops. “I was a bored and broke teenager, but I saw an opportunity. After experimenting with little kits, I developed my art. I love the gorgeous designs and rich history of the art form,” said Viers. “I’m now set up at markets and am available for private parties. I’m taking appointments for events like baby showers, birthday parties, ladies events and pre-festival bookings.” A popular aspect of the Creston Farmers’ Market, Viers is now looking at balancing college with continuing to expand her business.
After listening to all six participants, the crowd then voted on what business they think would benefit from the cash prize. While the votes were tallied, McGregor spoke of game pieces that will show how many times locally spent money recycles through the community. Those that receive the game pieces are encouraged to log in the corresponding code to the website www.kes.bc.ca/token. “It is estimated that locally spent money recycles through a community six to fifteen times, but there’s no real concrete way to show that,” said McGregor. “I’m hoping these game pieces will do just that. There are 16 game pieces and on May 1 we will draw a name. The winner receives a Samsung tablet.”
After a representative from the Chamber of Commerce awarded LEAP-ers with a membership for the remainder of the year, Community Futures gave each participant $100 and a free one-hour session with Business Councilor Alison Bjorkman. The winner of the $600 prize was then awarded to Danika Peltzer. In her acceptance speech, she thanked the support of her fellow LEAP-ers, as well as the program itself and the community of Creston.