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SUBJECT: SWGC: Gateway West paints brighter future for Port aux Basques entrepreneur
DATE: Jan. 17, 2006

Alex LeRiche had it all going for him.

An electrical engineering technologist, the Port aux Basques native was at the cutting edge of his field back in 1980. His last contract had brought him all the way to the Arctic where he was involved in the monitoring of icebergs using sonar, infrared and radar technologies.

And that’s when Mr. LeRiche got hit by an iceberg of a much greater magnitude – an aneurism that paralyzed the entire right side of his body.

Not one to give up, he worked hard at his rehabilitation and eventually was able to teach swimming lessons in St. John’s. Not an easy task for someone with little movement on one side.

That battle won, Mr. LeRiche realized there was something missing.

“There always seemed to be something missed from my life,” he said. “I was always artistic – I always enjoyed drawing and sketching – so I decided to try my hand at it.”

His left hand, at that. He enrolled in the visual arts program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville. Since graduating, he has mastered using his left hand, painting portraits, scenery and anything with a Newfoundland theme – dories, icebergs, puffins and gulls.

Recently he’s realized that he has a knack for teaching as well.

“I took the skills I had when I was a swimming instructor and applied them to instructing art,” he said. But teaching painting is an expensive business. Mr. LeRiche realized he would need financing for easels, paints, brushes, drawing paper, canvases, and more.

That’s where Grenfell College’s Gateway West came in. Gateway West is a three-year enterprise and entrepreneurship pilot project at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. The project aims to put potential entrepreneurs in touch with the many resources available to them that might otherwise go untapped by inexperienced up-and-coming business people. Partnering with Sir Wilfred Grenfell College and ACOA in support of Gateway West are the John Dobson Foundation of Montreal and the Humber Valley Resort Corporation.

Mike Jackson, director of Gateway West, met with Mr. LeRiche to discuss financing opportunities as well as a business plan.

“We saw the potential in Mr. LeRiche’s business plans,” said Mr. Jackson. “We were able to help him develop his plan, as well as put him in touch with funding agencies to make his dream a reality.”

Mr. LeRiche’s gallery, called the Sou’ Wester Studio, operates in Port aux Basques during the tourist season for the most part. While it is closed for winter months, it will reopen in April. While he hasn’t begun teaching classes to this point, he hopes it will become a reality in the future. To contact Mr. LeRiche about his artwork, call 694-0167 or 695-7261.

“I’m hoping to go far with it – the world is open to me,” said Mr. LeRiche. “I’m testing the waters right now, but I’m probably going to go deeper and deeper.”

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