Experience running her own businesses has helped Alison Bjorkman jump headlong into her new job as a business counsellor.
“The ability to help people start businesses is exciting,” the local Community Futures representative said last week. “I get to talk to people and get paid to do what I would gladly do for free!”
Bjorkman, who ran Black Bear Books for many years, has been “repurposing” old items into stylish furniture and home décor items most recently. Puffin Design is a partnership with another experienced entrepreneur, her husband Bart Bjorkman. They ship items all over the world.
“I think people would be amazed at how much time Bart and I spend talking about business,” she laughed.
For over 25 years, Community Futures has played a significant role in entrepreneurial and business development throughout the province. It was established by the federal government in response to the severe economic and labour challenges rural Canadian communities were experiencing in the late 1980s.
“I have a lot of empathy with my clients,” said Bjorkman, who also makes and sells pottery. “I’ve been operating businesses for a long time — you have to walk the talk. This work inspires me to better use my skills in my own businesses, too.”
Starting a business isn’t as simple as having an idea and carrying it out, she said.
“People need to know how they want to feel in their lives, why they get up in the morning,” she said. “Running your own business is not easier than having a job, but it has a lot of rewards if it’s done with the right approach. Business people are emotionally connected to what they do.”
The “right approach” includes acquiring some basic skills. And creating a business plan.
“Before I bought the bookstore I spent months working on a business plan, and it had every component that we teach and cover through Community Futures,” she said. “I knew I had to do it, and I know I can run any business if I have a plan.”
The preparation pays off, she said. Statistically, about four of five startup businesses fail. That ratio is reversed for entrepreneurs who take advantage of Community Futures’ services. Locally, Community Futures works closely with Kootenay Employment Services, which offers a wide range of courses and also has a strong history in the Creston Valley.
Most of Bjorkman’s 60-hour-a-month position is taken up with teaching business planning and business management workshops to local entrepreneurs.
“The rest of my time is available to do business counselling,” she said.
Business loans for new or existing businesses are also available through Community Futures, but they are administered through the organization’s Nelson office.
Bjorkman points out that Community Futures has a variety of services for local entrepreneurs and we serve a broad range of clients from anyone interested in starting a business to existing entrepreneurs. To find out how Community Futures can help you, call Bjorkman at 250-428-6356.