Youth entrepreneurship program helps Island youth start their own business

MANITOULIN—Cambrian College is looking for a new batch of young, would-be entrepreneurs to take part in its Youth Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (YEDI for short), and get paid while doing it.

Have an idea for a business but aren’t sure how to get it off the ground? The YEDI program is seeking youth aged 18 to 30 to enroll in this virtual course which begins August 16, running until December 17. While gaining confidence, skills and making contacts, those in the course will also earn minimum wage.

Aline Taillefer, owner of Little Current’s The Island Jar, is the YEDI instructor. She explained to The Expositor that the first 10 weeks focus on business skills and business plan development. Students will flush out their business ideas and develop a concrete plan, learn about marketing, operations and management, accounting and bookkeeping, finances, customer services and will eventually present their business plan.

“The second half focuses on implementation—getting the pieces in place, then the actual launch,” Ms. Taillefer added, noting that she will be there for her students every step of the way.

So far there are six students signed up, but there are still six spots available.

The last intake of YEDI students produced a wide range of businesses that are now up and running: EstelleScapes, a landscaping business based in Wiikwemkoong and operated by Jessica Manitowabi; Manitoulin Designs proprietor Leah Broekema; Ty Hanninen’s Family Thyme Garden; Emily Hirtle runs Rose Gold Beauty; and Jon Bond’s new business is Mobile Shrink Wrapping.

“It’s pretty cool to see,” Ms. Taillefer noted.

While the program is open to those aged 18 to 30 only, other than that there are no stipulations, just that you come armed with a business idea.

Jessica Manitowabi of EstelleScapes told The Expositor that she studied golf course management but realized that she would like to translate those skills into a lawncare business. She enrolled in YEDI for the winter/spring program and called it “very useful.”

“We had a lot of guest speakers, resources, and they help you out with funds, too,” she shared, noting that with funds she gleaned from the program, she was able to have lawn signs, business cards and more made from Beacon Images in Tehkummah, and even uniforms with her business name too.

Ms. Manitowabi launched EstelleScapes (a play on her middle name) and so far, “it’s going really well. I’m getting calls every day. I have a few regular clients and a few community jobs too. I’m pretty busy every day.”

For the time being, EstelleScapes will be based in Wiikwemkoong, but she hopes to expand, obtain another truck, trailer and more equipment to reach more of the Island in the future.

Ms. Manitowabi admitted to feeling doubtful a few times during the course, but her advice for all those entrepreneurs out there is to “stick with it and don’t give up. It’s going to be hard, but you can’t give up now,” she added. “I’m getting busy and know it was worth it.”

Leah Broekema had a contract with Central Manitoulin and Billings to help execute its Digital Main Street funding, helping businesses get online. When that contract wrapped up, Central Manitoulin economic development officer Marcus Mohr encouraged her to sign up for YEDI as he knew she had an intertest in design, especially following the success of the Manitoulin-themed door mats she created as a way to while away the pandemic.

Ms. Broekema is a graduate of the University of Guelph with a focus on child, youth and family services and moved to Manitoulin to be with her boyfriend. And after graduating from the YEDI, Ms. Broekema has registered with Cambrian College this fall to study business.

Ms. Broekema said that, despite using Zoom, all of the young entrepreneurs connected really well.

A highlight of the course was a YEDI version of Dragon’s Den where the students had to pitch their business idea to a panel of businesspeople with actual money up for grabs, up to $1,000. She managed a cool $300 for her efforts. She noted that the course also covered the cost of getting a business licence, which is part of the program.

The official launch of Manitoulin Designs, which features her signature doormats, plus keychains with such Island landmarks as the Chi-Cheemaun and swing bridge, stickers and general “touristy stuff,” was held at the busy Kagawong Market where she has a table every Wednesday. Ms. Broekema also created a website as part of her business launch.

Ms. Broekema says anyone with an idea should sign up. “My advice is to just do it. It was a great experience. I made a lot of great connections and there’s no major pressure. If you’re unsure of your plan, they help.”

“It’s hard, it’s scary, but you can do it,” Ms. Broekema said of pursuing your dreams.

The course begins on August 16 and runs through December 17 from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 3 pm. To register, contact or call 705-368-3194.