By Mike Anderson

It takes a lot of planning to start a successful small business.

Besides having a solid business plan, there are also licensing, taxation and legal liability issues to consider.

It’s a daunting proposition, especially for someone who doesn’t have much business knowledge or experience.

But now there’s help for Georgina’s budding entrepreneurs, and the good news is it’s free.

Starting on March 8, Georgina Trades Training Inc (GTTI) is hosting Entrepreneurism in Georgina.

It’s a series of free two-hour seminars and workshops geared to entrepreneurs that runs for eight weeks, with participants able to attend in-person or virtually via Zoom.

Topics include entrepreneurship, business plans, legal issues, tax and accounting, employment law and business coaching.

The project is the brainchild of Alan Direnfeld, a Toronto-based lawyer who owns a home in Willow Beach.

Direnfeld, whose legal practice caters to entrepreneurs, developed the seminar series and launched it with GTTI last fall.

But this time, he’s added a few more topics and guest lecturers, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs.

“The program gives you an understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur, what it means to be a risk taker. And the only people you’re going to learn that from are entrepreneurs. People who are building their businesses and facing the challenges,” he said.

While the topics covered benefit start-ups, he says they will also help existing business owners.

“We are here to share information with, and offer guidance to, new entrepreneurs and those who are already beyond start-up but would appreciate a few new insights,” he said.

“Our past attendees included single-person/at-home enterprises to those planning to establish manufacturing facilities. We cover and cater to them all.”

Steven Clementson, co-owner of Grandma Bears Treats, a home-based bakery in Sutton, attended the fall seminar and says the knowledge he gained was invaluable.

“I had some stuff in place already, just through searching on the internet. But thought the course I learned some of the stuff wasn’t sufficient to run a business,” he said.

“We had insurance in place, but it wasn’t near enough. We’re also in the process of certifying the kitchen, so we’re 100 per cent legal. It’s a bit of a process, but it’s worth it. We want to do it right.”

Clementson advises anyone starting a business should register for the seminar series.

“I don’t think people realize what they’re getting into. It is an eye-opener as to what you have to do and the time you have to spend to make it work.”

Direnfeld believes his program will encourage entrepreneurial activity in Georgina and help local businesses survive.

“I see Georgina growing, but I don’t see the business and industrial base growing. We don’t have a lot of entrepreneurs who are opening up new businesses and lasting. You see many businesses just come and go.”

Direnfeld says some businesses fail because their owners don’t understand basic business practices, like managing cash flow.

“They don’t understand the ebb and flow of cash. Am I going to be short of money in a month or two? Even though I might be profitable at the end of the year, how will I get to the end of the year?”

“And wouldn’t it be nice to know how much money I need to budget for the business and my personal living expenses?”

He also stresses the need to understand the pros and cons of various legal business entities, like sole proprietorships.

“They don’t understand their choices regarding business entities and how to limit risk,” he said.

“I tell people all the time, if you open up a sole proprietorship and fail, you will lose your house, car, or even your dog. You will lose it all. And when you lose all of that, there’s a high probability you’ll lose your family. So you need to know how to structure yourself.”

Direnfeld also believes the seminar series can benefit people in the trades, including those currently enrolled in GTTI skills training.

“They’re offering welding in February. So wouldn’t it be great for a couple of those welders to create more employment instead of just getting employed? They could create a brand, open their own business and market their services outside Georgina.”

Ashley Walker, GTTI’s Executive Director, agrees.

“It’s a good fit for GTTI because we try and give people employment skills. This is kind of the next step for those people. They’ve got the skills and can now find out how to open their own business.”

She also says feedback from last fall’s seminar has been great.

“Everybody who participated last fall has been grateful for the opportunity. They’ve learned a lot. They liked being able to ask a lot of questions. And the entrepreneurs even provided information after the series was over. Alan’s talked to quite a few people who attended.”

Walker says there is a need for this type of program in Georgina because there is no access to post-secondary business education.

“We’re lacking that here. So being able to have these free or lower-cost opportunities is important,” she said.

“Georgina is blessed with bright and energetic people with the vision and desire to create and operate their own businesses,” Direnfeld adds. “I want to share what I know and what my associates know with people who have a desire to learn.”

“I’ve been a lawyer for 44 years. I’ve seen a lot of people succeed. I’ve sadly seen a lot of people fail. I don’t like to see people fail.”

For more information on the entrepreneur seminar series and how to register, visit www.gtti.ca.

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