Entrepreneurs contributing to local economic growth

Douglas College shows off Self Employment Program successes at awards gala

By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor

The Executive Plaza Hotel in Coquitlam was filled with the energy and enthusiasm of new entrepreneurs as Douglas College’s Self Employment Program awarded some of its brightest at the 16th annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards gala.

There were 27 nominees from nine different categories, from home-based business to high-tech to construction and manufacturing. All told, the award nominees collectively represented approximately $10-million to local economies in British Columbia and dozens of new jobs.

The event was emceed by author and television host Sarah Daniels, who became a successful White Rock-based realtor after a 17-year career in television broadcasting.

Heavyweights from a variety of industries were represented at the event, including New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright and Douglas College President Scott McAlpine.

Mayor Wright, who presented the City of New Westminster Retail Award, said that small business is integral to the revitalization of the Royal City.

“New Westminster is in the midst of a transformation,” said Wright in a brief chat with the Other Press. “These entrepreneurs [are] contributing to the attractiveness of New Westminster to other businesses.”

Douglas College President Scott McAlpine, for his part, said that the track record of success at Douglas College’s Self Employment program speaks for itself.

“When I came to Douglas College, I committed to making it the most progressive educational institution in British Columbia,” he said in his remarks to the audience. “You see the success stories in this room—you judge for yourself.”

The Self Employment program is one of the lesser-known gems amongst a wide variety of programs and courses offered at Douglas College, and McAlpine says that bringing the entrepreneurship knowledge into the wider programs offered at Douglas College is a priority being examined.

“One of the things we are looking at is to bring together [the Self Employment program] with other academic programs we offer,” said McAlpine.

While not everyone came away from the gala with an award, many of the nominees felt that they were already winners.

Dave Sviatko, owner of Sivey’s Lawn and Order Landscaping and a nominee for the Executive Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre Service Award, came to the Self Employment program with an admittedly turbulent background.

“I was a recovering addict who was on welfare when I started this,” said Sviatko. “Going from where I was to being here tonight, I’m already a winner.”

Todd Stephenson, owner of Upstart Battery, came away as the big winner of the night, having won the Now News High-Tech Award, as well as the Coast Capital Savings Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Stephenson said that his success is a direct result of the strategies and coaching he received through the Self Employment program.

“For anyone looking to get into business, this is a program that is second to none,” said Stephenson.

The Douglas College Self Employment program has a great track record of success, helping to start over 3,000 businesses. Seventy-two per cent of the businesses built as a result of the program are still running after four years—besting the provincial average of around 41 per cent.