Valerie Archer – Stepping Stone Farms

Valerie Archer is a Community Futures ELEVATE participant in Leslieville, Alberta. She owns and operates Stepping Stone Farms, an equine assisted learning facility that also offers fresh farm produce.

Valerie chose the entrepreneurial path because it gives her full control over her environment. Through the process, Valerie has learned that she is stronger than she originally thought, and is very much enjoying the equine assisted learning aspect of her business.

Her advice to new entrepreneurs is: “Go for it. The only thing stopping you is YOU. Where there’s a will…”

Valerie credits the ELEVATE program with offering her supports such as living expenses, training courses and travel expenses.

She also says that the Community Futures staff were a great helpt to her as well, by offering her moral support as she worked through the process of starting her own business.

Teena Corrigan Westerlund – Start Up DYI Intrepreter Booking

Teena Corrigan Westerlund - Start Up DYI Intrepreter BookingTeena Corrigan Westerlund is an ELEVATE client from Oyen, Alberta.

Her business is called “Start Up DYI Intrepreter Booking.” This business offers a mobile phone app to deaf clients to enable them to source and book interpreter services themselves, rather than have to go through an agency.

Being deaf herself, Teena saw a need for this service as there is often frustration in finding interpreters directly – especially in rural settings.

Teena’s advice to other entrepreneurs with disability is: “Believe in yourself. Don’t give up and deal with all barriers you will go thru.”

Teena worked with a mentor in the ELEVATE program and her 5-year plan is to continue to spread out apps to rural Alberta.

She is working hard to minimize the isolation of the deaf and hard of hearing and hopes to someday expand her service into the USA.

Sheila Manweiler – Helicovers

Sheila Manweiler has owned and operated Helicovers for many years and, thanks to the supports she has received from Community Futures’ ELEVATE program, she has been able to “rebirth” her business in order to grow and, at the same time, accommodate her disability.

Helicovers is a helicopter cover and accessories manufacturer. With a background in upholstering, Sheila wanted to become an accessories manufacturer and she has achieved this goal.

“A local helicopter company asked me to create covers for their helicopter and I found I had built a passion for this type of creativity.”

When asked what she has learned about herself while in the ELEVATE program, Sheila responds: “That I am only one person and this is going to take a team of personnel to accomplish the goal of being #1 competitor of manufacturing aviation products in the world.” So she has learned: “Do not doubt yourself, reach out to all personal, professional and resourceful areas of building a strong support system. When overwhelmed and in flux, refer back to your business plan and the resources you have chosen for supports.”

Sheila says that her access to a very competent business coach with knowledge, communication and enthusiasm has been a true asset.

Sheila’s evaluation of the ELEVATE program is very positive: “In my opinion the canadian government would benefit by the growth of small and medium business if they could provide more of these programs.

Nick Skinner – Full Metal Drilling

Nick SkinnerNick Skinner, owner / operator of Full Metal Driling in Edson, Alberta is an ELEVATE participant who has had to overcome some very real hurdles while getting his water well drilling business off the ground. Not the least of these hurdles was that he hit a train while riding his motorcycle!

During his year-long recovery, Nick took advantage of the many supports that the ELEVATE program offers.

Because of his new physical limitation, Nick decided to refocus on his skill set so that he could contribute to his business in a different way and ELEVATE helped him to be able to do that.

He cites the program as being “very helpful during my recovery period and made it a lot more feasible financially, as ELEVATE gave me the assistance to go through some retraining.

As well, ELEVATE provided me with an opportunity to work with an accountant to gain some practical experience that was very much needed to take over the bookkeeping of things for my business.”

When asked what advice he would give to other people with disabilities interested in starting their own business, Nick’s response is: “Go for it. it’s not easy and you probably won’t have any money for a long time, but you’ll have things that are far more valuable. Time, freedom, and satisfaction.

Waking up in the morning and going to work is a lot more enjoyable when you’re doing it for yourself.”

Melissa Plouffe – Miss Honey Bee Specialty

Melissa PlouffeMelissa Plouffe, owner of Miss Honey Bee Specialty is from St. Paul, Alberta and she operates a thriving food counter that serves hot and cold beverages, soups and sandwiches with the help of support workers.

Melissa used many of the supports from the ELEVATE program, travelling to Calgary to take barista training and also working with a coach / mentor in St. Paul in order to learn the ins and outs of being a business owner.

Melissa has worked very hard for the success of her business and is thrilled to be an entrepreneur.

ELEVATE was able to help Melissa purchase some of her equipment and help her along the way with a business plan, financial training and offering some funding for a part-time support worker.

Marvin Glazerman – MG Home Inspections

Marvin Glazerman owns and operates MG Home Inspections and Renos in Hylo, Alberta, thanks to supports he received from the ELEVATE program.

He was able to bring his life-long carpentry experience to his business, having worked alongside his father in his younger years.

Marvin chose the entrepreneurial path because he enjoys being able to choose the jobs he takes on and that he has a direct input as to the outcome of each job. 

Marvin reports that Community Futures’ ELEVATE gave him new ideas and someone to go to when he had problems or just needed someone to listen.

The Alberta economy has created quite a bit of slow times for Marvin, but he has persevered and is now operating a thriving business in the area.

Marvin’s future plans for his business are to continue working with the Metis Housing Association in the Hylo / Lac La Biche area and his advice to new entrepreneurs is: “You’ll be fine. Get help where it’s available”.

M. Renee Charbonneau – Belt Drive Betty

Renee CharbonneauRenee Charbonneau is an Alberta ELEVATE client who operates “Belt Drive Betty”, a motorcycle media company offering advertising and marketing solutions.

She came into this business as a result of an accident.

“During recovery from a car crash, I was being tested to find out where I was at physically and education wise, it was recommended to me that I write and do so about what I am passionate about.” Thus, the idea for Belt Drive Betty was born.

Renee’s advice to other entrepreneurs with disability is: “Go for it. Do your homework, but go for it. Its rewarding and empowering.”

She describes her experience with the ELEVATE program as very rewarding and beneficial. “I think that having access to a business coach and some solid professional training and guidance have been the biggest benefits. My experience with Community Futures was awesome.

The team in Grande Prairie is so approachable and accessible.”

Renee’s future plans for her business are: “I have a plan to offer the motorcycle world a Rider Friendly Directory that saves them money, helps them extend their riding season and I intend to take that directory and the social community attached to it – world wide.”

Brent Walliser – Rise Projects

Brent Walisser, is an ELEVATE client from Sundre, Alberta. His business is named: Rise Projects Recycling Depot and Auction.

Rise offers the following services: Recycling depot, offering drop-off or recycling pick-up. Usable goods from recycling depot go to auctions.

Community Futures ELEVATE program provided Brent with the funding he needed to help with website, training and mentoring.

His advice to other entrepreneurs with disability is: “Use Community Futures. Make sure you have a start up budget. Sign a lease on your building if you have one.”

Brent has been an entrepreneur for the last 15 years. “It is in my blood and I would rather work for myself than for someone else.”

Brent’s background is in the recycling industry, so this new business is a very good fit for his skillset.

Brent’s future goals are to continue building and designing his business so that it can become a franchise opportunity.

Alicia & Kate – Kate The Great Craft Kits

Kate The Great Craft KitsAlicia and Kate are mother and daughter owners/operators of “Kate the Great Craft Kits” in Red Deer, AB, and clients of the Community Futures ELEVATE program.

Their company offers personalized and individualized craft kits for children of all ages.

They mentioned that Community Futures is very full of encouraging resources and information and that the ELEVATE program helped with living support dollars, the purchase of disability supports and adaptive technology.

They are also grateful to now have a completed business plan, thanks to the supports received from the ELEVATE program and hope to be able to continue to create and sell their products.

Wilfred Blowers – Business Reconnections Limited

ELEVATE client, Wilfred Blowers is from Trochu, Alberta.

Wilf’s business is named “Business Reconnections Limited” and is designed to coordinate operations management for its customers. Wilf brings a lifetime of operations management experience to this role and, because of his entrepreneurial spirit, he was well-positioned to start his own business with the help of supports from the Community Futures ELEVATE program.

Wilf’s advice to other entrepreneurs with disability who are starting up is: “You must have all the right resources to meet the requirements to do this challenge. Having the courage and strength to meet the needs is essential to success.”

Contribution to Wilf’s success in the ELEVATE program: “I have a great deal of prior life experience but the greatest asset was the mentor that I worked with. She was great to help speed things along to meet the deadlines.”

When asked what his 5-year plan is, Wilf responds: “I will work to meet those individuals that would benefit from my experience and knowledge to better those lives of the people involved.”