Community Futures Wood Buffalo: Business Support for the Community's Future
Community Futures Wood Buffalo (CFWB) has been a part of our region since 1986, and in that time, they have provided programming and support to thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs.
Located in the heart of Fort McMurray on Franklin Avenue, Community Futures Wood Buffalo is committed to being available to local businesses and has continued to do so throughout the challenges of the past year with the 2020 Spring Flood and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our office has maintained Alberta Health standards to keep our staff safe while being able to serve the business community,” explained CFWB Executive Director Pamela Ramrup.
“We have been proactive in reaching out to our business clients, providing loan payment modifications, ramping up our online training programs, and keeping our office open to support businesses to have access to capital.”
Making the office a welcoming space for clients is key to Community Futures Wood Buffalo. They want entrepreneurs to feel comfortable when seeking support. As a business owner, operating during the pandemic has been challenging.
The team at CFWB works hard because they know how important business is to our region.
“Small business is the backbone of the Canadian economy,” said Ramrup. “In our community, there are over thousands of businesses registered with the municipality, many of which are owner/operators. By working with clients, we can support them to remain sustainable and grow, employing local talent and supporting the overall community.”
CFWB believes in supporting the delivery of services in our region. If small businesses are successful, then the entire Wood Buffalo region can be. Its business may be complicated, but CFWB’s mission is simple.
“We believe in the entrepreneur,” she said. “We are here to support small businesses.”
One of the ways CFWB provides support is through community programming. The following are a few examples of the many.
Business Coaching & Professional Services Program
The Business Coaching & Professional Services program has been invaluable to the business community through the pandemic by supporting them in diverse and dynamic ways.
The program is a multi-phase process that evaluates business plans and identifies their strengths, opportunities, and needs. CFWB then connects it with a professional service provider to meet that business’s needs.
“It has been a vital part of business continuity to support local businesses with pivoting their business to respond to their new realities of operating in a pandemic, flood, and economic downturn,” said Ramrup.
“By supporting businesses as they pivot their business, it allows them to remain viable, and continue to be able to provide goods and services to the local community.”
According to CFWB, a pivot may mean “you changed your customer segment, your channel, revenue model/pricing, resources, activities, costs, partners, customer acquisition – lots of other things than just the product.”
Pivoting has allowed many small businesses to remain operational in the face of unprecedented circumstances.
Community Futures Wood Buffalo invests in futures with Lemonade Day. This annual event is an opportunity for youth to learn business basics and money management.
“Participants in the program are learning not only about financial literacy, but they are also learning about entrepreneurship,” Ramrup explained. “It’s an opportunity to instill creativity and ingenuity in our young leaders of tomorrow.”
Lemonade Day 2021 will take place in June and will empower kids to take initiative to build their own lemonade stand, sell lemonade, and learn what it is like to be an entrepreneur. All registered kids will be invited to Lemonade University, where they’ll learn fundamental skills and gain self-esteem, setting them up for future success.
If that is not sweet enough, participants get to keep all the money they earn at their lemonade stands, but may decide to give back to a community cause they are passionate about. Learn more about Lemonade Day and register your little one at www.lemonadeday.org
CFWB has partnered with their sister organization, Community Futures Lloydminster to deliver “Project Gazelle”, which focuses on supporting and empowering women entrepreneurs. It offers resources such as business coaching, specialized training, and incubator spaces to help women entrepreneurs grow and succeed.
“This program has been instrumental in the community, providing access to training that is free and touches on a number of topics from resiliency to business management,” described Ramrup.
Since the program’s inception, over one thousand women entrepreneurs have received support and training through Project Gazelle. The project spans 15 Community Futures offices and serves women in Northern Alberta and Northwest Saskatchewan. To learn more about Project Gazelle, visit projectgazelle.ca.
These programs and more are available thanks to the hard work of the Community Futures Wood Buffalo team. To learn more about Community Futures Wood Buffalo, check out their website, woodbuffalo.albertacf.com or stop by their office.
In Ramrup’s words: “We are here to serve the business community!”