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Canadian Forces members learn business basics

The Based in Business group, from left, Julie Peck, Halifax; Wayne Pitchuck, Halifax; Mike O’Quinn, Gander; Robert Harding, St. John’s; and Dale Robillard, Gander. They are backed up by members of SIFE Memorial.

By Meaghan Whelan

With more than 100 years of service in the Canadian Forces among them, the five participants in SIFE Memorial’s Based in Business program have already had full careers. But armed with lessons from business faculty, advice from the business community and support from SIFE Memorial and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland, these members of the Canadian Forces are ready to start their second career.

The five participants, all from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, came to Memorial to develop their business plans and learn more about entrepreneurship. They completed online modules before coming to Memorial for the intensive week of business training, networking and mentorship.
The program, which is a partnership with the Department of National Defence, is the first-ever program of its kind in Canada.

Warrant Officer Dale Robillard, who works with the Search and Rescue unit in Gander, said the Based in Business program was an exceptional experience. “I’m learning from the brightest minds in St. John’s, I’m meeting business owners, I’m learning from professors who are doctors in their field and working with the best students in the world,” he said.

After the on-campus instruction, the participants are partnered with two mentors from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland for a year to help them refine their business ideas and develop their business plans.
Sarah Fisher, SIFE Memorial’s VP of Based in Business, says that without such partnerships the program wouldn’t have been possible. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this program on our own,” she explained. “This program was a collaboration with the Department of National Defence, faculty members who volunteered their time to teach, the Gardiner Centre, who offered their expertise and physical resources, members of the business community who opened up their doors for our participants and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador who offered to act as mentors for the next year.”

Dr. Christopher Loomis, president and vice-chancellor pro tempore of Memorial University, says that supporting the Based in Business program is very important to the university. “The Based in Business project is a new and important way in which we continue to honour the memory of those for whom this university was founded, and to help those who have put themselves in harm’s way in service to our country. Everyone at Memorial University, including Retired General and Chancellor Rick Hillier, is enormously proud of the SIFE students for creating this program and working so hard to bring it to fruition.”

Julie Peck, a Canadian Forces member from Nova Scotia, said the experience gave her the tools she needed to be an entrepreneur.

“SIFE and the business faculty have witnessed the birth of a new entrepreneur. I say birth because I think being an entrepreneur is a lot like having an infant – it doesn’t come with an owner’s manual or a rule book, you have to figure it out along the way,” she explained. “As an entrepreneur you figure things out as your business grows, but I feel that this week we’ve been given an owner’s manual and what we do with these tools will help us wherever we go.”

All of the participants were unanimous in their praise of the program and said they hoped it would be offered again. Officer Robillard said, “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am walking away from here a better person, someone who has been reminded by SIFE Memorial and all of the volunteers that as a community we can do anything together.”

The SIFE Memorial team will be competing in the SIFE World Cup in Berlin, Germany in early October.