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What an Honor – 2013 Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge Winner

Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A

Award Presentation: Kerry Dalton ATB and Geoff Rougeau, Challenge Coordinator Photo Courtesy of Wayne Dwornik

Who would have thought that just eight months ago, when I hung up my shingle as a self-employed Certified Arborist that I would be receiving such a great honour. Having a skill to offer is one thing, but running a business is a totalling different matter. I was really fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the Self-Employment Program offered through execuserv plus inc. here in Lethbridge. They lay a great foundation for aspiring business owners to learn the hard reality of what it takes to start and operate a business. Gillian and Leigh delivered a fantastic program with top notch, local speakers who challenged us to really think about every aspect of business management. They offered moral support, counselling on ideas and their own experience of running a business. It was there that I learned about the Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge. The Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge, facilitated by Community Futures, included more training with local experts in their field. All the people associated with the program were informative and were genuine in helping small businesses identify pitfalls and offered tools to overcome them. Having organized large events for the ISA Prairie Chapter, I know how much work goes on behind the scenes. I give a big HIGH FIVE to Geoff Rougeau for all his hard work as program coordinator. The staff at their office are great – friendly, encouraging and knowledgeable. They don’t give you the answers – they present the right questions that help each individual business come to conclusions that suit their unique product/service. It is wonderful to have such a great resource in our City. The participants were from all walks of life, techies, marketing, retail, service industry – and from all over the Chinook Region. All with an idea that needed development and nurturing. Probably the single most important lesson to all of this training is the importance of having a business plan. If you don’t where you want to be or how you want to be viewed, you can flounder around and get no where fast. I must admit it involved a great deal of ‘overtime’ and self sacrifice but it has definitely been worth it as I have confidence moving forward and a whole list of mentors to help when pot holes come along the road. The program wouldn’t be possible without the huge support from the local business community. They have offered up huge donations of cash and services that were distributed between the six winners (three from general and three from technology streams). What new business wouldn’t appreciate such a wonderful gift as they are starting out. It opens enormous possibilities of capital investment, staffing and business development that, in original plan, were somewhere off in the future. The first phase included preparation of a 20 page business plan. For someone who is seldom short for words, compressing my thoughts was probably the biggest challenge. I guess this can be viewed as another good management lesson in becoming more efficient. As a finalist, I gave a 20 minute presentation ‘dragon’s den style’ to a panel of four judges: Bruce Thurston: Management Consultant with Results Based Leadership Brent Lloyd: Management Consultant Michelle Steele: Sales Manager for ClearSky Radio Kerry Dalton: Relationship Manager for ATB Financial While anyone would be understandably nervous with such successful, influential people to pitch their concept to, they offered excellent feedback on the presentation and great suggestions and support for the journey forward. I will take all their advice as I move forward. I would be remiss if i didn’t include the list of all sponsors and partners for without them, this program would not exist.


ATB Financial RINSA (Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta)

ActionCOACH business coaching K2 communications, Video Production Services Gold Sponsors


Stringham Denecky, Barristers and Solicitors

tecconnect, An Alberta Centre for new Commerce Clearly Interactive 94.1 CJOC and 102.1 CJCY Government of Alberta, Human Services APEX Southern Alberta Regional Innovation Network

Silver Sponsors Hunt Insurance Agencies Ltd. ypm Chartered Accountants Canada’s Entrepreneur’s Gateway Lethbridge Vehicle Licensing & Registry University of Lethbridge

Bronze Sponsors South Grow Regional Initiative Business Development Centre Lethbridge Tactical Supply Tourism Futures

I would encourage anyone starting out to participate in these programs.

They will also be organizing the Women in Business Showcase this fall.

You may not be the big winner, but your business

will be a winner all the same.


Good Luck and much success to the other people who participated in the programs.


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