Vancouver is home to an abundance of small businesses which make up one of the city’s many communities.
Although starting your own business is a massive accomplishment, achieving and maintaining success can be tough because consumer trends are changing faster than ever before.
In 2005, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade established the Small Business Council (SBC) development program to connect, educate, and equip small business owners and entrepreneurs. Fast-forward to 2018 and the SBC continues to help Vancouverites grow their network and take their business to the next level.
To help get a better understanding of the program and how it benefits locals, we spoke to Carlos Leal, SBC Advisory Committee Member and manager of advisory services at EY.
How can the SBC help local businesses in Vancouver?
More than two-thirds of Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Members are defined as a small business (under 50 employees). The SBC tailors its events, communication, outreach initiatives, and public policy initiatives to meet these unique needs of small businesses from across the Lower Mainland.
It recognizes that most of these companies face unique challenges in many areas — including taxation, access to capital, breadth of knowledge within companies, and the strategic partnerships needed to grow to the next level.
What kind of events does the SBC hold and who can attend them?
SBC events are designed to provide members with an opportunity to learn from thought leaders in the business community, accelerate their company’s growth, and become a thriving member of Greater Vancouver’s business community.
SBC events enable members to build connections at networking breakfasts, strategic industry forums, as well as participate in professional development workshops.
The SBC’s monthly Thrive Series events engage small business owners from across the region. Topics of previous events include transformation through effective adoption of technology and innovation, economic trends and growth opportunities, raising capital, exponential selling strategies, and strategies to transform average managers into exceptional leaders.
Attendees leave SBC events with new business contacts, new friends, new skills, and ideas, that they can apply to both their personal and professional lives.
Can you tell us about your role as an Advisory Committee Member?
The Advisory Committee is composed of a diverse pool of leaders including business owners and entrepreneurs, senior executives from large organizations, representatives from academic institutions, and consultants from professional services firms. The committee engages in regular discussions and planning sessions to advise the Board of Trade on strategies to showcase local small business success.
This is achieved through the Board of Trade’s publications, events, and social media channels. In addition, the Advisory Committee also plans strategic events, such as the Thrive Series, and helps inform the work of the Board of Trade’s public policy and advocacy team.
As an international young professional, I was looking for ways to build my network and serve the business community outside of the workplace. Being passionate about entrepreneurship and education, I decided to join the SBC Advisory Committee in 2015 to be more closely involved with the small business community in Vancouver and bring the skills and experiences that I have been learning as a management consultant at EY to contribute to its success.
What does the SBC’s Practical Education Program (PEP) involve and who is eligible to participate?
Inspired by an academic exchange experience in Finland while I was completing my undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University, I started the Practical Education Program (PEP) with a group of volunteers from the Board of Trade.
The PEP is a free program that connects local businesses with talented post-secondary students to generate fresh ideas and develop strategies to propel their businesses forward, all within the safe classroom environment. By integrating entrepreneurs with the students, the PEP creates a win-win scenario where business owners get to access talent at no cost, and students gain hands-on learning experiences.
Any established organization, whether it is a start-up, non-for-profit, government entity or large corporation is eligible to participate. We are working with academic institutions that offer courses across all fields of study and have a project component involved. Projects can range from developing a growth strategy, to designing the user experience, and user interface of a new mobile app. There is an applied project for all kinds of business needs.
If your organization is looking for ways to grow and innovate, or you are interested in getting different perspectives to tackle a problem that your team has been experiencing for quite some time, then the PEP is for you. If you’re looking for new talent with specific skill sets that you would like to assess in real-time, it’s a great channel to identify and attract new talent.
Have you witnessed any local company success stories during your time with the Small Business Council?
The PEP has engaged numerous start-ups across numerous sectors including food manufacturing companies, credit unions, healthcare providers, and technology companies. From the education angle, students from numerous local post-secondary institutions have been impacted by the program over the last two years, including some who have landed successful careers in the fields of study with the companies that they worked on projects facilitated by PEP.
By participating in PEP, students can apply the concepts learned in the classroom on current business problems, establish connections with prospective employers early on, and at the same time make a real impact in their community by helping actual organizations solve some of their most difficult problems.
For example, in one of the recent engagements, a food manufacturing start-up was able to conduct a study to test a new product that they were looking to introduce to the market this year. Through the project, the company was able to gain real insights regarding the taste of the product and its packaging to make the necessary adjustments before manufacturing it in mass.
In your opinion, can the SBC contribute to future business growth in Vancouver?
With the mandate to connect, educate and equip small business owners and entrepreneurs to grow their networks and take their enterprises to the next level, I believe that the SBC is equipped to help a small business succeed.
As globalization, demographic shifts and new technologies transform industries and influence customer behaviors, businesses are having to adapt quickly to respond to these changes. Organizations that embrace change and have an open mindset to learn about new opportunities that can help them innovate are more likely to remain relevant in the market.
I strongly believe that the SBC is a great platform and resource that entrepreneurs and professionals can leverage, for their own careers, and to contribute to the future of business growth of the Greater Vancouver region.
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