GUYSBOROUGH: The local Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC) was the recipient of funding from the federal government.

On July 20, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced that the Guysborough CBDC will receive $303,294 to help small and medium-sized businesses. CBDCs are not-for-profit community-based organizations run by volunteers from the local business community who believe in improving the economic viability of their communities.

Guysborough County CBDC executive director Wanda MacDonald said participating CBDCs in Nova Scotia enter into annual or multi-year contracts with ACOA to provide business services to their geographic area.

“That’s for general annual operating costs for rent, wages, salaries, office supplies, that kind of stuff,” she explained. “Our investment fund is something totally separate from that. That’s what we use for our businesses throughout the county.”

MacDonald said their main function is providing financial and technical support in the form of loans.

“We have different loan products and different projects that we do through our provincial association like the Spark program, such as the skills on-line,” she explained. “Aside from our general loans program is our training programs and counselling, in terms of helping people go through the business planning process. And we also have our entrepreneurial training program so that’s a program we can provide technical training, whether it be marketing training, bookkeeping training, managerial training and we can supply 90 per cent of the costs to the business up to a maximum of $2,000.”

Under their Consultant Advisory Service, MacDonald said the CBDC can hire a consultant to give advice or run a financial diagnostics on the business. The CBDC can assist with up to 75 per cent of the costs of the program.

ACOA is providing nearly $3.3 million to support 12 projects with the Nova Scotia network of CBDCs by covering operating costs related to the delivery of the Community Futures Program, which provides small business loans, tools, training and events for people who want to start, expand, franchise or sell a business.

“Innovation better positions businesses to develop and grow,” said Erinn Smith, executive director of the Nova Scotia Association of Community Business Development Corporations. “The funding from ACOA for Spark will enable us to encourage new ideas in rural communities. The role these small businesses play in our community is often underestimated but the truth is there’s nothing small about the impact they have on our economy. They are rooted in the landscape and give back vitality and sustenance. CBDCs have been assisting businesses for the past 35 years. Governed by local volunteers sensitive to the needs of their communities, we provide patient, flexible financing that has never been more important.”

ACOA contributed $958,865 to the Nova Scotia Association of CBDCs to deliver the province-wide Spark Innovation Challenge over the next two years. The Spark Innovation Challenge offers early-stage seed financing for new technology start-ups in rural areas of Nova Scotia. The program provides mentorship, resources and financing to winning businesses.

“Being fortunate enough to be selected as a Spark contestant isn’t just about winning the money; it’s about winning the opportunity to develop your research, preparation and presentation skills to speak passionately and constructively about your business idea,” said James MacDonald, owner and CEO, GreenOil Solutions, 2019 Spark Winner and CBDC client. “These skills are absolutely critical as we continue our entrepreneurial journey to success.”

Spark began in Cape Breton six years ago to identify promising, early-stage startups. Now province-wide, winners receive up to $50,000 in non-repayable funding and guidance from seasoned business professionals.

“After the training, a shortlisted group of participants are invited to pitch to a panel of judges for a chance to win up to $50,000 to fund their business venture,” MacDonald said. “The program is open to all of rural Nova Scotia…and applications open August 6 and close September 8.”

Funding for the Spark Innovation Challenge is being provided through the Regional Innovation Ecosystems stream of the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program.