A Vaughan team is set to help launch entrepreneurial careers for disadvantaged and marginalized people across the GTA.
EPIC, the Enterprise Promotion and Investment Centre, is a newly formed business incubator focused on assisting low-income families, immigrants, seniors and single mothers.
A business incubator promotes and helps develop entrepreneurial businesses so they are successful once established.
The project, led by Noor Din, executive director of humanitarian organization Human Endeavour, received funding from Employment Ontario last March. EPIC hopes to officially begin working with community members in August.
The group’s primary goal is to promote self-sufficiency among disadvantaged groups by arming them with the training and knowledge needed to run a successful business. It aims to break the cycle of skilled but disadvantaged people working low-pay, menial labour jobs with little prospect for promotion.
“What we’re promoting is a step up from the $10 job idea – that’s just the starting point,” Mr. Din said. “If you stick with just finding a job, you will never break the barriers. So you have to think differently.”Barriers range from employers not recognizing the foreign credentials of immigrants, to the social stigma that surrounds hiring seniors, or even family obligations that may make it difficult for single mothers to work a day job.
A study by Human Endeavour with numbers from Statistics Canada shows that despite government funding and initiatives to help disadvantaged communities, rates of child poverty have barely fallen in 30 years and the income level of immigrants has actually decreased since the 1980s.
EPIC hopes that by taking control of their own careers, participants can experience true financial independence and success. With self-employment, they can enjoy a flexible yet still rewarding career path that accommodates their individual needs.
A major aspect of the organization is its community-oriented approach. Participants are made to feel welcome and comfortable, because, according to Kanwal Habib, EPIC’s sales and marketing specialist, for many marginalized communities such as immigrants, the first step in launching a new career is the hardest part.
“It’s really intimidating for them to go into these agencies and look at all the rules and regulations,” she said.
Ms Habib noted that EPIC is able to better serve its targeted community because most of its core members know the difficulty in starting a new life and career.
“You really need somebody who actually knows what you’re going through,” Ms Habib said. “With us, a team of people who are mostly immigrants, we know what their challenges are and can really put ourselves in their shoes.”
Critical to the program’s success is the idea of a social enterprise, a business that makes money but also takes care of the community that launched it.
This means that businesses successfully launched with the organization’s help are encouraged to help other fledgling businesses by providing partnerships, resources, or consultation.
The process starts with an unemployed or underemployed (someone receiving less than satisfactory income in relation to their level of skill) participant receiving consultation from EPIC’s team of professionals.
Once they decide what skills they want to build upon, the participant is provided with the training needed to be successful in that particular field. After their business is established, EPIC will connect that business with another relevant enterprise. For example, if a participant starts a marketing company, Mr. Din’s team can connect them with other businesses to manage their accounting or media presence.
This lets new businesses launched by EPIC benefit from each other’s skills and experience while forming a tightly knit support network. EPIC can also provide ongoing training, feedback and resources such as office supplies. Plus, participants can use the main office as their meeting place until they acquire their own office space.
The ultimate goal is to form a community-driven, grassroots organization that retains partnerships with larger corporations so that disadvantaged communities can take advantage of the full spectrum of employment opportunities.
EPIC is now seeking a range of volunteer board members and consultants, especially in the fields of law, accounting, marketing and business development.
To get involved with EPIC, call 905-832-6842 or visit www.humanendeavour.org.