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Brock Township welcomes new businesses, including those based at home.

Both the Township and Durham Region offer a wealth of resources for new and existing business entrepreneurs.

SMALL TOWN SURVIVAL: The pressures of online shopping, box store options, and belt-tightening has put increased pressure on area retail businesses seeking to stay sustainable. Over the next three weeks, we will look at the challenges and successes as well as the innovation and incentives that have benefitted not only local shoppers but the people behind the counters in Kawartha Lakes and Brock Township. In this second of the three-part series, we examine how businesses can use government incentives or their own innovation to compete.

It’s always been a challenge to operate a business in rural communities, but whether you want to take the plunge or need ongoing support for your existing business, there’s a wealth of resources to draw from.

If you have a home-based business in Brock and worried you might be in trouble with the Township, you’re in for a surprise.

Deputy clerk Becky Jamieson, who also works closely with Durham Region on economic development, says she suspects there are many home entrepreneurs who are “scared to come to us because they fear they are going to get into trouble with the Township."

“The reality is most people with a home-based business aren’t doing anything wrong. We want to know if people are running them... we want to welcome them.”

Jamieson says there are guidelines and legislation in place (bylaws) that govern the type of home business you can operate without a lot of red tape.

For example, you can’t just run an auto repair shop out of your garage without ensuring compliance with bylaws, she says, but staff are always willing to help get a business idea off the ground.

“I think there can be a negative connotation to home-based businesses, but that is not the case.

Rhonda Downey, founder of Core Graphics says she started her own business in 2013 after she was laid off at age 58. She found support from Durham Region, Durham College and Brock Township. - Catherine Whitnall/Metroland

Jamieson says the Township expanded its Red Welcome Wagon program to include businesses, with 46 during the last term of council (13 in 2018, 19 in 2017, 9 in 2016 and 5 in 2015). There has been a total of 68 since 2011.

The program runs through the Brock Economic Development Advisory Committee (BEDAC) and council. Residents and non-residents who start a business in Brock, or non-residents who expand an existing business into Brock are eligible to receive a Red Welcome Wagon visit. Red Wagons are loaded with helpful information for business owners.

Jamieson noted the Township is “doing its best to help local businesses,” adding Beaverton and Sunderland’s downtowns are thriving. Cannington currently has many empty storefronts for different reasons (such as retirements), but that means more space opportunities for business.

A lot of businesses in Brock are home-based and family owned, but there is opportunity for those who want a storefront, she says. While the Township itself doesn’t offer funding programs, it can point residents to those resources.

Rhonda Downey of Core Graphics and Media Solutions in Beaverton started her business in 2013 at age 58. A graphic designer for her entire career, she says no one would hire her after she was laid off.

“It was impossible to get another job, and I suspect it was because of my age,” she says.

Her company provides graphics, printing products, promotional items and media-related services. After deciding to start her own business from her home, she attended a course through Durham College that helped her with all aspects of business.

“I’m a very shy person and it really helped me to overcome that; now, I can get up and give a presentation in front of people with no trouble.”

Downey says it was the Township that helped launch her after she ‘pounded the pavement’ putting her promotional materials (which she created herself as a graphic designer) at homes and businesses in Brock.

“They saw my [flyer] and hired me; I produced the Shop Brock coupon book,” she says, adding things took off from there. She has done work for Durham Region’s economic development as well, including material for their Business Expansion and Retention (BR+E) initiative.

“I’ve had a lot of referrals,” she says. “I now belong to the Brock Board of Trade and am part of a networking group. There are lots of resources out there if you want to start a business.”

Downey says her job fits her life perfectly; she considers it part-time and as owner, she has the freedom to set her own hours.

Lianne Megarry, owner of The Dark Horse in Sunderland, which offers antiques, art and home decor said living on a farm outside of town meant she didn’t know many people. She’s been in business for more than eight years, and took two years to find the right location.

“Since I didn’t know many people, I started to volunteer with the Maple Syrup Festival and the Historical Society,” she says. “Then I started attending the business breakfasts and networking…I’ve met so many people from Cannington and Beaverton I never knew before.”

Megarry warns starting a business means you must be prepared for a lot of hard work and to do your homework.

“It’s all about communication. I found owning a business is twice the work, half the money and eight times the dream. But, I’ve seen so many businesses that didn’t last their first year. You can’t just close because you want to go have lunch or a smoke break or not come in at all.”

Megarry says small town businesses succeed when they work together and support each other. When she hosts workshops, she sends her students to local restaurants and stores for supplies.

“You can’t look at other businesses as competition; you are not an island and we all have to work together.”

She notes the Township “seems much more open to business” than in previous years, adding “there have been some great people on staff” who are always willing to help.

Megarry advises those who want to start a business to talk to others, network as much as possible and take advantage of the available resources.

“I had to win my customers’ confidence and work with other merchants,” she says. “I will say that if you have to be pushed into starting a business, don’t do it.”

Stacey Jibb, the North Durham coordinator for Durham Region’s Economic Development and Tourism, spends two days a week in Brock. She grew up in the township and still lives there. She says Brock, while considered part of the GTA is a unique rural community, and the Region has taken part in several initiatives in the past (such as Shop Brock) to help it grow.

She says the “number one” resource she recommends for businesses is the Business Advisory Centre in Durham, an arm’s length agency that provides advice and support.

Another resource is South Lake Community Futures Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that serves East Gwillimbury, Georgina, and the Township of Brock. They provide free business development advice, business loans, and non-repayable funding.

“They worked with us for the Shop Brock [initiative],” Jibb said. Unlike Uxbridge, Brock Township residents are eligible for funding with SLCFDC.

Jibb noted another key resource. The north Durham Building Business Forum (BBF) is an annual half-day event held in rural north Durham region that brings business leaders together to inspire new business ideas, make strategic connections with local and provincial business support organizations, and strengthen the rural economy. It promotes local entrepreneurs by bringing them together to network, and encourages people to start businesses.

It includes the We C.A.R.E. for Business Tradeshow which features business support organizations that assist in the creation, attraction, retention, and/or expansion of businesses in north Durham.

Traditionally, the BBF has been a collaborative regional economic development initiative of the Economic Development Advisory Committees of the Townships of Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge in partnership with the Region of Durham Planning and Economic Development Department.

Jibb said the event took a hiatus in 2018 (because of the municipal election) but the Region hopes to hold the event in 2019. Anyone is welcome to attend but it primarily serves to benefit entrepreneurs, home-based business owners and small to medium enterprises.

For a complete list of the Township’s business resources, visit https://townshipofbrock.ca/doing-business/business-resources/business-financing-start-programs/

Another" class="redactor-autoparser-object">https://townshipofbrock.ca/doi... resource available through the Township is BizPal, which helps entrepreneurs with licenses and permits they may need. You can find it at https://townshipofbrock.ca/doing-business/business-resources/bizpal-online-business-permits-licences/

Riley, M. (2019) 'Brock Township welcomes new businesses, including those based at home', Brock Citizen, 20 December. Available at https://www.durhamregion.com/n...(Accessed: 20 December 2019). 

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