Taking part in the Business Recovery and Expansion Program offered by the Tsuts’weye Women’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Network has been a re-energizing experience for Wildwood Flower Emporium owner Ellen Gonella of Salmon Arm. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Making connections: Salmon Arm business owner re-energized by free local program

Applications being accepted for Business Recovery and Expansion Program

As Ellen Gonella prepares a large arrangement of roses, traffic in her store begins to pick up again.

Moments later, Salmon Arm’s Wildwood Flower Emporium is abuzz with the coming and going of customers. Before she has to join her staff in providing assistance, Gonella takes a moment to champion a local program she’s been a part of that gives owners of established businesses an opportunity to assess what they do and how that might grow and improve.

“I think for me, it gave me a lot more confidence in my perception of myself as a real businessperson,” said Gonella of the Business Recovery and Expansion Program, an intense six-month program offered through the Tsuts’weye Women’s Entrepreneur Network.

Read more: Tsuts’weye project positioned to help Shuswap business women through pandemic

Read more: Workshops, networking events designed for Shuswap women entrepreneurs on the way

“There was two people out of 11 of us who had a business background, that went to school for any of what they’re actually doing. The rest of us, we had a passion for something and we just jumped in because we wanted to do it. So being able to go through this program gave us official names for things we’d already been doing or ways of looking at things.”

The program, in Gonella’s words, offered an opportunity for a “hands-on, heart-open, mind-blowing exploration of why we do what we do.” She said it also deals with how things can work better by making them better for everyone in the experience and who to reach out to and include and work with. The program also taught what resources are available to business people and how to not only access them, but also how they might best serve her business’ needs.

The opportunity to connect and share ideas with peers was also a great benefit of the program.

“A thing that was really great to come out of it was this really great group of people to brainstorm with,” said Gonella, explaining she was able to share the good and the not-so-good with fellow entrepreneurs and have “real” conversations about the pains, the struggles and fears that come with running a business.

Gonella said the program also renewed her appreciation for her staff and the passion they show, and made her think of to best support, appreciate and reciprocate that. At the same time, it also gave her focus on what she should be applying her skill set on and how she could be delegating other duties. One of the results is a more consistent experience for staff and customers.

Gonella said the program has been a blessing for her and fellow participants and she can see it having a wonderful ripple effect on the community at large.

Twenty women have participated in the Business Recovery and Expansion Program, said Tsuts’weye Women’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Network project manager Carmen Massey, with the first 11 graduating on International Women’s Day on March 8. Applications are now open for the next group of program participants at tsutsweye.ca. In addition to its website, more information about current programs offered through the Tsuts’weye Women’s Entrepreneur Network, including its new Lunchtime Connections program, can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

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