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Vaughan business centre a hub of entrepreneurial growth

On the outside it looks like a simple red brick house, but once inside the Vaughan Business Enterprise Centre (VBEC), one quickly discovers it is a hub of entrepreneurial spirit in a city known for its successful start-up businesses.

Operated by the City of Vaughan and funded jointly by the city and the Ontario Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, VBEC has helped launch more than 2,200 new businesses with start-up and business growth counselling and resources.

"The centre was established in April, 2001 to meet the needs of a flourishing entrepreneurial climate in Vaughan," says Frank Miele, Vaughan's commissioner of economic/technology development and communications. "Vaughan is a very pro-business city, and VBEC is an important mechanism for serving those with entrepreneurial aspirations."

And city support for VBEC goes all the way to the top.

"The services that entrepreneurs find at the centre increase the probability of business success, and that expands our city's economy," says Michael Di Biase, mayor of Vaughan. "It's a win-win venture."

"We interpret governmental rules and regulations, and help entrepreneurs access the information they need to build profitable businesses," says Lynn Evans, the senior business consultant at the centre.

A successful entrepreneur herself, Evans also has a background in commercial banking which serves the centre's clients very well when they are preparing to approach a lender for financing.

"Sometimes it's a matter of coaching an entrepreneur on how to present their financial statements to a bank," she says. "Other times, it is pointing out that what they really need is a line of credit and a credit card, not a business loan."

The VBEC team assist clients through referrals, one-on-one meetings and group seminars. But according to Sergio Navarretta and business partner Alessandra Piccione, founders of Platinum Image Film, the most valuable service offered by VBEC is the information resources.

"The information available here has lessened the learning curve for us," he says. "The risk of starting a business is so high, it doesn't make sense for an entrepreneur to try and figure everything out by themselves -- and not when there is a free resource like VBEC."
Entrepreneurs Carrie Rubel (left) and Sergio Navarretta (right), seen here with senior business consultant Lynn Evans, have both taken advantage of the resources offered at VBEC.

Piccione agrees. "The staff are very hands-on. When we met with Lynn, we were looking for guidance on accessing capital. We received that, but as we worked with the advisors, confidence in our ability to make good business decisions increased."

Carrie Rubel, owner of Hands 4 Healing, says VBEC helped her focus on both her time and her business plan.

"Lynn helped me set business goals and begin time tracking," Rubel says. "As an entrepreneur and a single mother, making effective use of my time is very important. I now have a solid business strategy that has made a huge impact on my business and my day-to-day life."

In addition to staff, the centre has also developed external relationships with business professionals who regularly visit the support centre, including account managers from the Royal Bank who are on site every Tuesday to answer finance questions from the entrepreneurs.

More than a self-help office, Evans and her staff understand, often from personal experience, that entrepreneurialism is a lifestyle.

"Entrepreneurs tend to be innovative by nature, a kind of business Don Quixote," Evans says. "We help them challenge the status quo by focusing their strategy."

And it was just that need which led Sergio Fiorda to VBEC last December.

He and his business partners at Calisto Wireless Networks had been marketing their last-mile connectivity business on the Internet, and wanted feedback on how they could better reach their audience.

"I keep thinking if I had called six months ago when I first heard of VBEC, we could have made those smart changes sooner rather than later." To contact Lynn Evans and VBEC, call 905-471-0412, or visit the centre at Keele Street and Major Mackenzie Drive in Vaughan.

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