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Blog

Looking at self employment in BC?

Dana Reed

Having had my share of layoffs in the past few years, one thing I really wanted to venture into was self employment. I asked myself what skills do I have that I could use to make a career for myself? In my case, goldsmithing and photography both came to mind. And I thought brilliant! Why not combine the two?

Thus, the Pieces of Vancouver line of jewellery was born, combining photography, goldsmithing and Vancouver history. Each item is etched with a photograph, primarily botanical, taken in the gardens and parks of Vancouver. Vancouver is full of fascinating history and each image has a story behind it, based on the neighbourhood it was shot in.

Thanks to EI (Employment Insurance), I've had the chance to develop and work on this line of jewellery and my business, Dan's Garage. The self employment program is virtually unknown to most Canadians, even though it is funded by EI. It's a great program that is administered by the Community Futures offices in rural parts of BC and work centres like WorkBC in places such as Vancouver.

Here in the Vancouver area, the program is provided by various colleges like Langara, Douglas, BCIT and also through the YMCA and Embers Ventures. Eligibility is open to people currently on EI, those having been on EI in the last three years, or five for maternity claims. You'll have to contact a WorkBC centre and talk to a case manager to get started.

The program, through the colleges here, provides a 10 week training session in business basics with the goal of a thorough business plan at the end. Classes are extensive and cover things like marketing, sales, cash flow forecasting and basic bookkeeping. At the end of the 10 weeks, participants present their business plans to a panel and if successful, go on to the second portion. The latter half of the program covers 38 weeks of working full time on your business.

During all this, you can continue on your EI claim. If you have exhausted it or are no longer on a claim, income support of up to $300 a week is provided for the full 48 weeks of the program. This support is vital to being able to put in full time hours on a new business that may not bring in any money for months.

There's good news if you can't qualify as an EI claimant. Langara College has opened up its 10 week program to fee paying students. For $1995 you not only get the 10 weeks of business training, but you also get to take three continuing ed courses, for free! They need to be related to business in general or yours in specific, which is worth up to roughly $1500. That's a pretty good deal.

And for those who can't take daytime courses, Embers in Vancouver also runs a three month, two evening a week self employment program which costs only $250 and scholarships are available for those on low incomes. A great idea if you are looking to transition from a day job to being self employed.

I can't recommend highly enough the program in general and the one at Langara in particular. Given the continuing uncertainty in the job market for all areas, self employment is definitely a viable option for having the career you want.