Community Futures East Parkland and various businesses and partners with agriculture and agri-business came together last fall in Bashaw for a seminar about the different lending opportunities out there.

Community Futures East Parkland and various businesses and partners with agriculture and agri-business came together last fall in Bashaw for a seminar about the different lending opportunities out there.

Local lending option can help all business plans

Those involved in agricultural based businesses can benefit just as much as any other business from a local, more flexible lending option.

Those involved in agricultural based businesses can benefit just as much as any other business from a local, more flexible lending option.

Community Futures East Parkland, based in Mirror and covering an area stretching from Alder Flats to Castor and from Wetaskiwin to Blackfalds and Ponoka, is just one of 27 regional offices in Alberta that provide loans to people that either can’t get financing from a regular bank or other financial backing.

“We can work with those in the agricultural industry and agri-business, we do have a diverse set of clients, but we are for anyone. The vast majority of our clients are looking to start their own business,” said Sherry Lynn Twa, general manager and business analyst of Community Futures East Parkland, at a recent seminar in Bashaw.

Twa, who spent 20 years in the financing business as a banker and insurance broker, explained that Community Futures (CF) works the same way anywhere in Alberta. CF is federally funded and works with clients that face challenges financially, including a number of those with disabilities, with loans and business counselling to set up or continue to operate a business.

“We don’t work so much with agriculture or agri-business, but we will help those with referrals to agencies like Agriculture Financial Services Corporation and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry or other financial institutions that can better assist them,” she stated.

CF, in addition to loans, has a no-fee business counselling service that takes as much time as the client feels they need along with research assistance, business plans and an entrepreneurial assessment.

“While an economic development officer has a broader knowledge of what’s going on and contacts, what we can help is by looking at if the product or service is relevant, do people need it and will they buy it. We will work with them as a team to see what the opportunities and drawbacks of their plan are,” Twa said.

The entrepreneurial assessment, Twa added, is an interesting and revealing tool for most people as it helps them see whether or not the venture could work plus focusing on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the business and about the entrepreneur.

She stated there are three factors resilience, flexibility, balance entrepreneurs need to consider before getting started.

Resilience to do the everyday, mundane tasks and dealing with the long, seemingly tireless and unrewarding hours is important, as is balancing life and work in a way that isn’t about forcing it, but making work more of a pleasure.

“(However) being flexible, that is, willing to change or pivot on an idea or course that isn’t working and honest enough to admit it, is also extremely important to being successful,” Twa said.

And, a well-thought out business plan that CF can help build is a great tool toward success.

“You fill it in with all you know and back it up with evidence. There are three perspectives we look at in any plan who is the target, how the product/service appeals to them and then knowing where best to spend your money,” she stated.

“And you need to pick and choose a target market, define what your product or service is, look at who the customers and competition would be plus have a vision of where you are now and how to get to tomorrow. If the plan is not working, it’s a living document just like your business so go back and rework it for your situation.”

In addition to CF, entrepreneurs need other team members like their bank manager, insurance broker, lawyer and accountant to help.

“Not all of them are necessary, but all are good partners and one of the strongest relationships is with an accountant who needs to be active in the business,” said Twa.

For more information, contact the Community Futures East Parkland office in Mirror by calling (403) 788-2212 or toll free 1-888-788-2829.