Story Credit: https://www.chathamthisweek.com/news/local-news/small-business-program-gets-yoga-studio-moving
The owners of a new yoga studio in downtown Chatham moved their business forward thanks in part to a program at the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre.
Simon Swanek and Mark Reinhart opened Body Language CK during the Canada Day long weekend at the end of June.
Swanek said he and his partner – who are both municipal employees – originally looked into the Small Business Centre to get help with their business plan. Eventually, they enrolled in the Starter Company Plus program, which is provincially-funded, but administered by the municipality.
"Originally, we looked into the Starter Company Plus program because it was an opportunity for us to have some financial support and the support that we got in building our business plan was really crucial to our early stages, for sure," he said. "And even still now, it definitely helped us land on the right foot as we got started."
Businesses are eligible to receive a grant through the free program once they complete a three-day training course. Body Language is set to receive $3,500.
The training included seminars which are meant to help with a business plan, said Swanek, but they also address concerns many small businesses have when starting up.
"I found there were a lot of opportunities for questions, so people could voice their own concerns in starting their own unique business," he said. "Everybody was able to I think customize their experience a little bit, which was great."
The Starter Company Plus program began in 2017 with $150,000 from the province to administer the program until the end of March next year.
Rosemarie Montgomery, a small business consultant with the municipality's economic development department, said her clients learn about a one-year marketing strategy, financials and projections "so that they have an idea of how many clients or products they would have to have each day, each week, each month to be able to be viable."
Swanek said he and Reinhart plan to use as much of the grant money as possible towards other small businesses in Chatham-Kent.
"We want to maintain the spirit of small business, so we're looking at investing in custom furniture, like a custom-made reception desk, things like that, but best case scenario for us is all of that money is going to go right back into small business again," he said.
They are also considering hiring an artist to paint a mural on one of the walls in the studio, he said.
Montgomery said the program has been more successful than the municipality imagined. She said she expected to put 50 to 75 people through training over two years, but ended up with 150 in the first year alone.
Other businesses which have gone through the program include Fantasy Nails Plus in Chatham, This Guy's Hives in Charing Cross and The Crappie Store in Dresden.
About 50 businesses received grants ranging from $3,500 to $5,000, said Montgomery. The program is out of funds to give out, but it could be replenished in March, she said.
"Right now, we're working ongoing with the clients that we have to start the list for the training in March," she said. "They have to be working with us now to develop their plan to get on that list for March and we'll have to cut it off. We'll have too many people."
Simon Swanek, left, who co-owns Body Language in downtown Chatham with Mark Reinhart, right, teaches a yoga class at the downtown Chatham studio Aug. 20, 2018. (Tom Morrison/Chatham This Week) TOM MORRISON/CHATHAM THIS WEEK