Young entrepreneurs find opportunity in Castlegar

For Kaleigh Herald, owner of The Shop, a skate and snowboard supply store in Castlegar, B.C., “Community is a huge reason why I opened my business. The number one thing that keeps me motivated is this community.” Kaleigh is part of an influx of newer families moving to the Kootenays for the lifestyle and can already see the influence she is having in Castlegar’s downtown core. Her business is part of many opening in the area, creating a new vibrancy and young buzz.

The challenge

Kaleigh moved from Vancouver to the Kootenays to find opportunities and more affordable housing, but it was difficult to find her footing initially. She was “so sick of trying to find a place to live” and noticed that Castlegar was a growing community that had the stability she was searching for herself and her child. Still, her passion for the outdoors meant she had to regularly commute back and forth to Nelson for skate and snowboard gear, equipment, and servicing. Sensing an opportunity, Kaleigh opened her skate and snowboard shop in downtown Castlegar, but as a young person without previous business experience, the banks would not consider her loan application. This experience led her to connect with her local Community Futures office, which referred Kaleigh to Futurpreneur Canada.

The strategy

Kaleigh didn’t initially plan to open a business, but after a year of living in Castlegar, she was frustrated with how far she had to go to find a business that served the skate and snowboard community. She felt it was “now or never and it was time to plan out what a board shop would look like in Castlegar.”

Through the Futurpreneur Startup Program, Kaleigh had access to a Business Development Manager in her region, a free Business Plan writer template to complete a business plan and two years of cash flow projections. During their meetings, Futurpreneur reviewed her plan and provide guidance based on their years of expertise. Kaleigh also worked with a Client Relationship Manager who helped with her application throughout the process.

Once Kaleigh received her loan, she was connected to her Futurpreneur mentor: “The mentor that I'm matched with has a lot of experience in accounting and bookkeeping - I've been asking her lots of questions. We're able to communicate well with each other. What works the best between us is that neither of us like video chat so we just text each other or pick up the phone. I like how she works.” Through this mentor-matching program, Kaleigh has access to two years of free mentorship, supporting her business through the critical time for its success.

Successes

The Shop is close to achieving the financial projections Kaleigh developed during the program and is establishing key relationships with suppliers and customers. As with many other tourism businesses, the pandemic shortened the ski season in 2020/21 and prevented American tourists from visiting, which did impact The Shop’s snowboard sales. Thankfully, the upward trend leading up to the summertime is in line with what she expected, and her profit margin remains healthy.

Kaleigh feels proud that The Shop has given people a place to gather and find cool outdoor sports equipment that adds something fun and exciting to do in these challenging times and that she is helping kids get outside and get motivated in the outdoors.

“Surviving the pandemic” has not been what she expected, and she didn’t think it would go on so long, but her products and business model are in high demand, which contributes to her current success.

Additionally, thanks to an innovative program supported by Destination Castlegar and Castlegar City Council, The Shop was given support to create an exterior mural, to help draw more foot traffic. The program allows local businesses to use public space, particularly outdoor space, to help their business.

Lessons learned

  • Young people face many barriers to starting a business, including accessing start-up capital and mentorship
  • Programs like Futurpreneur provide access to resources like coaching and collateral-free financing for youth (18-39) to start businesses
  • Finding a niche or gap in local services in rural British Columbia can be a viable business opportunity
  • Building self-confidence is key for new entrepreneurs; ensuring that the process of starting a business is accessible and not intimidating will encourage more young entrepreneurs to follow the same pathway

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July 15, 2021