Growing your own opportunities
Agricultural entrepreneurship and investment programs helping to launch Island food businesses
While maritime jobs are disappearing and population numbers are declining, some Cape Bretoners are pursuing the entrepreneurial path. Jill Mcpherson and her business partners Liz Maccormick and Kevin Mckague are taking advantage of agricultural entrepreneurship programs to launch the Cape Breton Cider Company. Their goal is to open the tap room and production space near the Sydney water front as early as fall of 2017.
Though they are only in the business planning phase, response has been overwhelmingly positive. The success of mainland cideries, Bulwark and Annapolis Cider Company, and craft breweries such as Big Spruce Brewing and Breton Brewing is encouraging. Mcpherson is quick to point out the support and advice that has been provided from others in the industry, something that she and her partners are very grateful for.
"If we want to take our communities to the next level we need to be supportive of entrepreneurs and new ideas".
The trio have secured some funding and are in the application process with the Department of Agriculture and investment programs like Farmworks.
Over twenty people from Cape Breton and Eastern Mainland attended the February 19 Farmworks information session hosted by Jeremy White of Big Spruce Brewing. They learned about borrowing and investing opportunities in local agricultural businesses. A Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) since 2011, Farmworks has raised over 1.4 million dollars to invest into Nova Scotia entrepreneurs. Both White and Farmworks were just starting out when they partnered. Although the loan from Farmworks was small, White recalls it was critical to the future success of the brewery.
Two of the co-founders of Farmworks, Linda Best and Ann Anderson started the CEDIF because Nova Scotia was losing farms, local food, and jobs. “Farmworks grows community and keeps money circulating in the province,” says Best. From her perspective, investment in this CEDIF brings money back to the province and supports local economies. Their goal is to support entrepreneurs of every scale, from small business to large scale productions, and create jobs that will keep people in Cape Breton.
Interested entrepreneurs complete and application form and submit a business plan complete with financials. After meetings between directors and the applicants, a final review is completed by board members. From beginning to end, the process takes an average of one month. To date, over 60 businesses have received funding from Farmworks, and Best anticipates the number will reach 80 by end of 2017.
The Federal government is on board as well. Farm Credit Canada says that access to capital will allow these businesses to take advantage of new opportunities, grow the economy and create more middle class jobs. The Young Entrepreneur loan offers financing of up to $1 million per qualified applicant, under age 40. The loan can be used for the purchase or improvement of agriculture-related assets. It can also be used for the purchase of shares in an agriculture-related business, including those in the agrifood sector.
The Canadian Agricultural Loans Act (CALA) Program is another loan guarantee program designed to increase the availability of loans to farmers and agricultural cooperatives.
For more information on Farmworks, visit www. farmworks.ca.
Farmworks co-founders and current directors, Linda Best (at computer) and Ann Anderson walk guests through the funding application process. Farmworks supports small and large scale productions to create jobs that will keep people in Cape Breton.