The first sips of an urban cider created from a new startup business in the heart of downtown Sydney are just months away from being available for public consumption.
It didn’t get this far without a considerable measure of hard work and determination and, lucky for its founder Jill McPherson, some money she had managed to save and stash away.
A micro-loan program like the one launched Thursday by the Sydney Credit Union and the Cape Breton Partnership sure would have come in handy when the idea for Island Folk Cider House was first being formulated.
“With not very much money I was able to take my cider-making course in Kentville, visit cideries across the province and build my business plan and hire a cider consultant,” said McPherson at the loan launch ceremony in Sydney.
“I think without having access to that small amount of money that wouldn’t have been possible. And everything else kind of built upon that. I think it was great as an initial stepping stone, at least for my business.”
Not all aspiring female entrepreneurs in Cape Breton are fortunate enough to have some cash to fund their own ideas, as identified by a study under the direction of Cape Breton Voices, a volunteer-led organization of women from across the island.
A Cape Breton Partnership study found similar results.
“We were speaking to entrepreneurs that were in business for 10 years or less and from a variety of sectors and the No. 1 major challenges were access to finance and funding,” said McPherson, who is a member of Cape Breton Voices.
Under the pilot program, female entrepreneurs from across Cape Breton-Unama’ki can apply for a loan of up to $10,000. The pilot launched Thursday and will run for three months or until the program's $100,000, provided by the Sydney Credit Union, are allocated.
All financial aspects will be managed by the Sydney Credit Union, while the Cape Breton Partnership will provide access to mentors, programs and additional resources such as business planning, support for export, immigration and economic research.
The approach is based on the Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunity program. Once the Cape Breton program is completed, its partners will determine its future.
Carla Arsenault, president and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, told this week's gathering the hope is that it can lead to a more permanent funding stream for female entrepreneurs and that entrepreneurs will be able to establish themselves or expand their businesses.
Carol Ripley, chief executive officer of the Sydney Credit Union, said the micro-loan program aligns with the credit union’s mission and vision to support and enhance the financial well-being of its members and the economic growth of the community.
“We believe that we have created something that will not only support women entrepreneurs within the community but actually supports the community as a whole.”
Contact the Cape Breton Partnership for more information and details on how to apply for a loan.
Micro-lending program for female entrepreneurs:
- Each application will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- Sydney Credit Union’s existing adjudication and due diligence process will be used in making decisions to grant loans.
- Loans would be at a non-compounding rate of three per cent, with zero per cent interest for the first six months.
- Once completed, the Cape Breton Partnership and Sydney Credit Union will assess the success of the program to determine its future.
- For more information, contact the Cape Breton Partnership.