Community Futures Nicola Valley (CFNV) is a one-stop shop for those who dream of opening their own business or taking their current business to the next level. Providing a range of services from one-on-one training and education, to funding and business counselling, CFNV has helped hundreds of businesses succeed since their establishment in 1986.
“I like to think of us as sort of a WorkBC-esque entity, but if you want to employ yourself,” said CFNV Loans Officer Joe Nemeth.
“So effectively, if you have an idea for a business or you’d like to seek self-employment we can do everything from business counselling as well as those early services like registering your business name, registering for the GST number, deciding whether or not you should be a sole proprietorship, a partnership or an incorporated business, and we do provide funding through government loan programs for start-up or maintaining an existing business.”
Drawing from more than half a dozen different funds from Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacificCan) formerly known as Western Economic Diversification (WD), CFNV have the ability to help a variety of people achieve their business goals, including persons with disabilities and entrepreneurs under the age of 30, for example.
They also have sector specific funding, including for businesses specializing in the environmental sector, mining and in particular forestry, an industry which has been hard hit in BC.
“We’re extra incentivized to support that industry,” said Nemeth.
CFNV was also in charge of disbursing funding from the Regional Relief & Recovery Fund (RRRF), a federal government program which aimed to help reduce the impacts on businesses of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We disbursed, specifically to the Nicola Valley, over one million dollars in one year,” said Nemeth of the RRRF.
Businesses were assisted with zero interest loans with a large forgivable portion, which represented up to $10,000 or $20,000 in no-strings-attached funding for some enterprises.
Although Community Futures used to be considered a “last resort” for businesses, and a requirement for accessing their help was first being turned down by banks or traditional lenders. However, this is no longer the case, although they still offer high risk loans or loans to individuals with poor credit under the right circumstances.
There is no shortage of those with the entrepreneurial spirit in Merritt, with CFNV fielding business proposals from seniors to high school students, the latter via their Merritt Youth Entrepreneur Program (MYEP).
“We’ll meet with a full assembly at the school with all the kids, give them a crash course of what it would be like if they open their own little business, and then the ones that are interested can come to the MYE session,” explained Nemeth.
There they learn more, come up with a business plan and are given a small amount of start-up funding, typically $150 for one student and $250 for a partnership.
“Every year we fill up the MYEP program, young people are really engaged, they really want to learn more about being an entrepreneur,” said Nemeth.
“And I have to say, in Merritt specifically, the range of ideas that come in are kind of crazy. There’s so much inspiration going on for different ideas, people seeing niches that need to be filled and innovative ways to do things… We typically don’t hunger for new ideas too much. The people that come in are full of passion, they’re jumping in with both feet.”
Fresh Finds is another of CFNV’s initiatives. Originally launched in 2020, it provides a tent, table and booth fee for the local Farmers’ Market, allowing people to test the waters and determine whether they would like to become a full-time vendor or not.
“The Farmers’ Market became one of our biggest partners over the last couple years,” said Nemeth.
“We wanted to start a promotion where we could give people the opportunity to try out their business at the Farmers’ Market.”
If you have an idea or a goal of starting a business, reach out to CFNV at 2181 Quilchena Ave.
“It doesn’t matter if your idea is so far-fetched, we want to hear it and we want to help you make that happen,” said Fran Delaney, Interim General Manager and Finance Coordinator.
“It’s a lot about dreams, it’s a lot about people saying, ‘you know what Merritt needs?’ So, if you’ve got that dream, we want to make it happen, and we’ll do whatever we can to make it happen.”