Check out how our collaboration with CF and EDP helped us provide an inclusive space for entrepreneurs with disabilities!
- Community Futures Associations in Western Canada
- Mashup Lab’s Dream Business Program
- Creating a space for inclusive entrepreneurship
Through the Community Futures Associations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC, and with support from several local Community Futures offices in rural communities throughout Western Canada, the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program (EDP) provides entrepreneurs with disabilities and ongoing health conditions with business information, training, development, mentoring, and one-on-one services.
Entrepreneurs come in all forms! We’re learning that there is a massive pool of untapped entrepreneurial potential “sitting on the sidelines” within the community of people with disabilities. While they may have a disability or health condition that presents significant challenges, they also have unique strengths and abilities, allowing them to start and grow strong, viable businesses. However, their disability or health condition can prevent them from fully participating in many traditional business or entrepreneurship training programs. These programs are often designed and delivered without consideration of the needs and accommodations necessary to allow people with disabilities and ongoing health conditions to thrive in a more personal, flexible, and adaptable environment. We wanted to give people the space and opportunity to feel safe sharing their needs and journeys with us and provide them with the tools and guidance to launch or grow their businesses and achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.
Having Community Futures Western Canada Offices partner with us to offer our EDP Dream Business Program was the perfect opportunity to provide a learning experience and community for entrepreneurs with disabilities and ongoing health conditions with adjusted facilitation to meet the needs and learning styles of the participants. Through these partnerships, we can share our program and teachings with a wide range of participants, allowing them to gain confidence and knowledge and a supportive system with Mashup Lab, other participants, and the partnering organization for further support and learning.
Through our partners at the Community Futures Offices, a deaf couple was provided with an ASL interpreter to engage actively in our Dream Business sessions. The couple could niche down to something they were passionate about versus building a business they thought they should be doing. They had a go-to-market plan for their indoor virtual golf centre at the end of the six weeks. Additionally, we were able to work closely with a participant who was battling severe anxiety, giving them a more personalized approach to participate while honouring their need for solitude and space.
Since March 2021, we have run nine (9) EDP Dream Business Program cohorts with over 100 entrepreneurs who have completed and successfully moved their businesses from idea to reality, launched their businesses, or planned and took action towards launching! Throughout these sessions, we have seen resilience, creativity, and determination!
One participant had an idea for her farm to help children aging out of the foster system. She had a massive idea and vision in her head and on paper but didn’t know how to bring it to life. She was overwhelmed and spinning her wheels. Through the program, she realized that it wasn’t a 6-month plan; it was a 10-year plan. Still, she could immediately launch individual components of her vision with clear, actionable steps she learned through the program and generate income. At the same time, she continued to plan and prepare to launch the next piece.
One participant wanted to create and sell art pieces for individuals new to Canada so they wouldn’t miss home. The problem he encountered was whether the business idea was viable. He contacted his community and settlement organizations through the Dream Business Program to test the market. Individually, he wouldn’t have been successful in completing the program, with his mother alongside to support him and also having a disability herself; they both completed the program and are ready to launch two businesses, two different customer segments in one rural community.
A successful First Aid business owner participated in the Dream Business Program to support her expansion goal. Through the program, she clarified where she was and what was needed to reach that next milestone. Her “aha” moment was that she was not returning to the basics of market research and needs before investing further. An unintended outcome for her was the network and relationships she built while in the program with connections to her next potential customers.
Through our work with Community Futures Offices and EDP, we can provide inclusive opportunities for entrepreneurs. The experience for the partner is the result of the participants and the feeling of accomplishment and excitement the participants have when they see their work and ideas come to life.
At Mashup Lab, we are grateful for the opportunity to work with the participants; the relationships formed and the excitement on Celebration Night when the participants present their ideas or make a pitch are exciting and emotional. The relationships between facilitators and students are more than teacher and student; our facilitators are also entrepreneurs; through our community, we stay connected, provide referrals, answer questions, and cheer them on from the sidelines.
When the six weeks are up, it is not the end; it’s the beginning of the next chapter. We can’t wait to continue working with them in other areas and help more people on their journeys!
Ready to feel even MORE inspired? Check out other participant stories and case studies here!
Looking to participate in one of our Dream Business Programs? Click here to learn more!