The Collective is open for business

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The Collective has enacted changes to their entrepreneur program to make it easier for young adults to set up shop and succeed in St. Albert.

Through the program 18 to 28-year-olds have an opportunity to open a retail business, have access to training, build up clientele and prepare to relocate into the community.

Connie Smigielski, the manager for community strategy with the city’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) department, says The Collective will now operate through a consignment model.

“I think it’ll be easier to get young folks to come in if they don’t have to commit to so much time,” she says.

Previously business owners at The Collective would be required to work five days each week from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., which often conflicted with their schedules.

“With a consignment model I’m hoping to make that a bit easier,” she says. “A young entrepreneur would come in and commit to a minimum of one day a week.”

The Collective grew out of an initiative to retain young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 after both the city and Northern Alberta Business Incubator (NABI) found that after graduation, young adults moved away due to lack of opportunities.

The Collective is divided into two parts: the entrepreneurial program and the 300 square feet of retail space, both of which are centred around growing business in the downtown core and retaining 18- to 28-year-olds.

The entrepreneurial program is where young entrepreneurs can try their hand at running a business, and the 300 square feet is offered for businesses looking to start up shop at an affordable price, with the idea that they will eventually relocate in the community.

The Collective launched last May and has since seen three youths enter into the young entrepreneur program.

However, business training was not at the forefront of the program and two of the business owners left the program to begin post secondary education in the United States.

Smigielski says they wouldn’t put restrictions on how long participants have to commit to the program, but did say changes needed to happen surrounding time commitments.

The way it works

Young entrepreneurs apply to the youth entrepreneurial program, and if accepted, pay a $25 fee. The fee covers rent as well as any materials needed to develop their storefront.

As for the product, it’s up to the retailer to provide the merchandise.

Upon receiving the application, NABI will work with the young business owners to determine a business model, mentorship plan and a long-term strategy.

Aaron Budnick, program director for NABI, says this year they’re focusing on intention of the applicant retention of the business.

“We want to make sure that the people who come in are actually committed, and that they want to get the business coaching, they want to make their business grow and that they’re going to be there long-term and relocate back into the community,” he says.

Smigielski and Budnick say St. Albert is missing the 18- to 28-year-old demographic. Often youth leave St. Albert after high school in search of more opportunities.

The Collective is designed as a way to fill the gap and provide more options for youth with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Young entrepreneurs learn the skills they need to run a business and gain experience running it. Once they’ve built up enough clientele in the community, NABI will work with the business to relocate in the community.

From there, NABI will continue to mentor the business owner until they hit a five-year mark.

“Eighty per cent of businesses after five years are not a business anymore, we see only about 20 per cent go out of business in five years, so we have pretty good success,” he says.

There are currently two applicants in the process of being accepted at The Collective. One sells general retail items such as clothing and jewelry and the second is an artist selling portraits and paintings.

The stores are expected to open in the beginning of May.

There is still room for more applications. Those interested can apply at https://stalbert.ca/city/collective/marketplace/. The Collective is located at 100 St. Thomas St.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.