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New entrepreneurship program hones in on skills and experiences of older adults

'It doesn't matter what age you are, there's always a place at the table for you'
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Whether you're 55 or 85, the Business Centre Guelph-Wellington can help make anyone an entrepreneur with its new program.

Starting Nov. 11, residents can sign up for Skills At Work: 55+, a virtual program which provides mentorship and workshops to sharpen skills needed for entrepreneurs who are looking to kickstart their business. 

They also help support these budding businesses by featuring them on the Business Centre’s website and social media. By teaching entrepreneurship skills to older residents, the program is helping them control their own destiny, said Kristel Manes, the executive director for the Business Centre.

They are currently working with eight people and five businesses. 

“It's not just people in their 50s or 60s (participating), but we also have people in their 70s and 80s," she says.

The program was inspired by an entrepreneurship program in London called Over 55 Skills at Work, which helps older residents in London with their businesses. Manes says with their help and a grant from Ontario Trillium, they were able to launch Skills At Work earlier this year.

Then, the pandemic came, and the program was put on hold. This didn't last long, as Manes says they decided to resume the program after older residents started coming to them as they were being outsourced.

"What we realized was once things sort of calmed down that we needed to reopen this program, because we recognized that we had people coming in through our doors in that position," says Manes.

She says the program can benefit people that are in situations where they lost a job due to COVID, can’t afford to retire, or are unfulfilled with retirement.

"We have all kinds of people," says Manes, "We have people who just started business, some people, for example, have taken a hobby-based business, what we call a 'side hustle' and they've realized there's potential for them to make money out of it."

"We're seeing a lot of consulting-based businesses and all kinds of really neat ideas."

Manes adds these people have a lot to offer customers and companies, and should not be turned away based on their age. 

“It's a bit of an unconscious bias in the hiring,” she says, "We look at a resume and look at the skills 'Oh, this person is great for the job,'... and we've had a lot of people say, they could see the person's face change once they walked into the room, and they realized there was an ageism issue.

"We like to think that we don't, but we all do have a bit of an unconscious bias."

Manes says the Business Centre plans to run the program until March. Over the next six months, she hopes they will be able to help 30 or 40 people with their business ideas. 

“I think we're onto something. I think the numbers will dictate that. I think we're going to see a lot of different things happen over the next couple of years with our economy,” says Manes.

If they find this program to be successful, Manes adds they will consider expanding the program and make it bigger.

To learn more about the program, go to guelphbusiness.com or call 519-826-4701.




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