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SIFE Memorial program helps ex-military start own businesses

By Diana Flemming
Special to the Gazette

Nineteen transitioning Canadian Forces members arrived at Memorial University last week to participate in Based in Business, a week-long entrepreneurial boot camp run by Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Memorial.

During Based in Business, faculty members in the Faculty of Business Administration teach budding entrepreneurs business basics. The program also provides real-life business advice through discussions with local business professionals. As well, participants develop their business ideas through one-on-one time with SIFE volunteers.

Susan Sampson, one of this year's participants, grew up in Gander and is currently living in Lancaster Park, Alta. She has accomplished much during her 26 years of service in the primary reserves, including rising to the rank of sergeant, completing her bachelor of education in math and raising her son as a single parent. Now, she has set her sights on becoming a businesswoman – specifically, in the growing field of senior care. She wants to provide a bridge to seniors for independent living in their own home until a care facility is required.
"Based in Business is a great fit for me now that I'm retiring from the military on medical release," said Ms. Sampson. "I have thought of opening my own business for several years and I hoped that being with other entrepreneurs would give me more confidence and knowledge to see my plans through the planning stage and move forward to reality."

Ms. Sampson said the week-long experience helped her in numerous ways. She said that networking and brainstorming with the SIFE students, faculty and her fellow entrepreneurs was the most "enlightening and fabulous experience" she could have imagined.

Dr. Travor Brown, professor of labour relations and human resource management with the Faculty of Business Administration, has volunteered with the Based in Business program since its inception in 2009.

"One of the main reasons I decided to take part in it was about giving back," said Dr. Brown. "It's a way to take my background, my skills and experience and help those who fought and represented this country as they make the transitions to the next phase of their careers.

"Each year has just been an incredible experience," he continued. "The participants are so motivated and eager to learn. They are so ready to start making the changes. Then I guess for me, it's amazing how much I get caught up in their stories, in terms of what brought them here, where they've been and where they're going, so it's certainly one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in my academic career."

Shane Skinner, president of SIFE Memorial, says Based in Business is a unique project that was started as a way to give back to those individuals who serve in Canada's military forces.

"It's an honour to work with the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to serving our country," he said.

Now in its fourth year, the project has grown in scope and reach. This year, SIFE Memorial was approached by both the Prince's Charities Canada and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) to create a partnership in the form of the Prince's Operation Entrepreneur program. This new partnership builds upon SIFE Memorial's Based in Business boot camp with the addition of business planning support, access to startup and growth financing and specialized business mentoring from the CYBF and the support of Prince Charles.

Mr. Skinner says this partnership offers many new possibilities for Based in Business.

"We are excited at the prospect of expanding the program across Canada and ultimately to other countries in the Commonwealth, offering more deserving Canadian Forces members the opportunity to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality."