Success stories

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Success Stories

Community Futures is pleased to showcase some of the many good news stories in rural Alberta. Everyday we help people like you start and grow successful small businesses.

Kindred Companions

Janet Fitzgerald & Colleen Best
Strathmore, AB

After caring for their own elderly parents, cousins, Janet Fitzgerald and Colleen Best had experienced the ebb and flow of the time constraints of giving their all to ensure that Mom or Dad were content and comfortable, spending quality time with others, etc. "You learn a new appreciation for age and illness and your level of compassion seem to just grow. I guess when it's meaningful like that, it's just something that you keep coming back to, something that you want to do because it feels right, it feels good."

From these experiences, the concept of Kindred Companions was realized. Spending time with another whose family may be far away by offering companionship. Helping clients go grocery shopping, going to appointments with them, maybe cook a meal together, etc.

Their business idea was to offer a non-medical companionship service to seniors and persons with disabilities. The ladies made an appointment with Community Futures Wild Rose to discuss their idea and based on the information received, they decided to venture into this field. A lot has happened over the course of twelve months.

Mention was made of the 'Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge' being an annual program that offers eight weeks of free business training. Kindred Companions were participants in the '9th Annual Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge' who entered their completed business plan into the competition. Submitted entries are scored and the top three finalists are chosen, one being Kindred Companions!

Janet and Colleen were runners-up receiving $2500 cash and in-kind services including business coaching, media assistance and radio advertising, to mention a few.

"We are well on our way to establishing ourselves in the community. You and your staff provide a top-notch service which has been critical to us in moving forward with our business plan. Thank you all so much."

Vilna True Value

Gisela Klauke
Main Street, Vilna, AB

Running a business in a small village means that you need to provide a number of services to your customers. That is exactly what Gisela Klauke does in the Village of Vilna in Northeast Alberta.

Gisela started her small business in 1997. She owns and operates a hardware store that has hardware, farm goods, paint, household supplies and fishing supplies that meet the wide variety of needs of her rural customers. On top of that she is also runs the local Alberta Registries office from the store. With these services under one roof, she if busy with customers looking for one service or the other. Gisela is also an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and she took the opportunity to renovate a room on the side of the store to rent to the Chamber for their office. This provided the Chamber with a downtown office that was easy for people to access and had all the space necessary for them to hold their meetings, keep their office equipment and supplies.

The Village of Vilna completed a “Boomtown” style renovation of their downtown a few years ago and the Hardware storefront was done to match the theme. It has a historical look and with it’s high profile location on the first corner of the main street, the store adds to the overall theme of the Village. The wooden sidewalks and the old town flavour of Vilna’s main street continue to bring visitors and shoppers to the store.

Today, Gisela keeps busy in her business. She is an active member of the community and can bring a personal touch to her business. She knows most of her customers by name and as a small business, she has the ability to be able to accommodate special requests and services that her customers appreciate.

A step into the Vilna True Value Hardware takes you back in time. It brings back memories of a time when life wasn’t quite so rushed and where a friendly and familiar face meets you behind the counter. Where the question “How are you today” is asked because the owner truly cares and a place where you can relax and take a few minutes to chat about the weather, the crops, or an upcoming event in the community.

Oasis Trailer Manufacturing Inc

Rolling Hills, AB

Heinrich Friesen and Bernhard Krahn bought Oasis Trailer Manufacturing in 2013 which is located near Rolling Hills, Alberta. The company builds their own trailers and sells them to clients throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan. Community Futures Chinook and Entre-Corp partnered with FCC in order to provide enough financing for them to purchase the company. Since Henry and Bernhard have owned the company they have expanded their operations which has created a number of new jobs as well. They have gone from 23-35 employees in the past year all of which are hired locally. Henry and Bernhard have not been in business that long but what they’ve been able to do so far has been a great success in our region and has a very positive impact on rural Alberta.  

Country Hair & Body Salon

Edie Mason
Onoway, Alberta

Edie Mason had been working as a hair stylist for Country Hair & Body Salon for approximately 9 years when the owners decided to sell the business. At the time, Edie tried to secure financing to purchase the salon but was unsuccessful. The business sold and the new owner gave Edie the opportuntiy to manage the salon as she was away most of the year. After 3 years of managing the salon, the business was again for sale. This is when Edie discovered Community Futures!  With our assistance, she was able to purchase the business and her dreams of owning her own business came true!

Since then Edie has really made the space her own. She has completely renovated the salon and added a number of services. She has gained even more repeat customers, some of whom travel quite a distance to come and see her. In Edie's own words "I am lovin' every minute of it!"

Van Dan's General Store

Jolane Shipley
Glenwood, AB

Van Dan's has been part of the Glenwood Community for many years. In 1938, brothers Van and Dan Lybbert opened up a butcher shop and operated as Lybbert Brothers.

Several months later, in early 1939, they bought a restaurant and small grocery store and added the butcher shop to the back of it.  It was a family business with other brothers and their families helping in different ways.

There are always challenges in running a business. Van Dan’s building eventually developed problems.  The flat roof had to be repaired many times. The floor also needed repairs. By 2004, problems from a leaky roof left Van Dan’s faced with shutting down, building a new building or replacing the roof.  They really didn't want to shut down and leave Glenwood without services. The cost of building a new building was too high for the amount of business being done, so replacing the roof looked like the best option. 

Community Futures Alberta Southwest provided Van Dan’s with the ability to put a cottage style roof put on the store and Van Dan’s continue to do other repairs each winter to make it a better building.

Van Dan’s services now include basic groceries and meats, basic hardware, convenience and snack foods. The meat business has now moved to a separate business known as The Chopping Block and operated by Doral Lybbert with help from his family.

Many of the meat products sold at the store come from The Chopping Block. The day to day operations of Van and Dan's is taken care of Jolane Shipley and Cheryle Lybbert along with local employees. Their husbands Dwain Shipley and Doral Lybbert are great supporters and do much of the renovation work. Their mother Grace Lybbert is still with them in Glenwood but is not able to be as actively involved as she once was.

After 74 years, Van Dan’s still enjoy being part of the Glenwood Community and providing service to their customers. The spirit of entrepreneurship is going strong in all of our communities and Community Futures is there, ready to help.

The Cake Company

Grant Canning
Canmore , Alberta

When is a cake company not a cake company? When it’s the Cake Company Café in Banff. The history of this spot, popular with local residents, goes back to 1988 when the first bakery/coffeehouse opened in Banff. “It pre-dates all the big chains, so when I bought the business in 2010, it made sense to keep the name – it’s a tradition!” says Grant Canning, owner.   No longer just a bakery, this popular spot now offers sandwiches and wraps, some desserts and a full range of coffee and teas. “It’s the kind of place that tourists stumble across, but all the locals know about,” says Grant. “I like being able to greet people by name and sometimes, we have their favorite beverage ready by the time they reach the counter.”  Grant’s journey in entrepreneurship was a natural progression of his solid education, including an MBA and Bachelor of Commerce degree with specialties in Tourism and Marketing. Fueled by his experience in marketing while in the ski industry, he knew business ownership was in his future. When the Cake Company Café became available, he was confident he knew what it would take to run a successful operation. “When the idea of owning a coffeehouse first started to percolate, I had the desire, but lacked two things – experience and capital.” That didn’t go over well with traditional lenders, he recalls. “I understand why they are governed by numbers, but decisions are often made by people you never get to meet.”

“My experience with Community Futures Centre West was much different. I was actually referred to them by a bank who turned me down. Community Futures was remarkably helpful and I was given a very specific outline of what I need to do to move forward. They worked with me to find solutions, so I didn’t hear the word “no” very often. Instead, I heard alternatives and great suggestions, such as how to mitigate the financial risk. They listened to my ideas, understood my vision and most of all, they took into account who I was as a person.”

“The best advice I’ve received about business ownership is that every decision made should add value to my business and if it doesn’t, then I need to rethink it. I tell aspiring entrepreneurs to always believe in yourself. Owning a business comes with lots of stress, but success or failure is always predicated by you. Have confidence that you’ll do well.”

Now in its sixth year under Grant’s ownership, The Cake Company Café is a haven for locals, many of whom either work in the professional building where it’s located, or walk through to and from appointments in the building. “They are my mainstay, what keeps me going. Sure visitors to the area find their way here, but we really try to be a local oriented place and want to stay that way.”

Story by Patricia Alderson

Photography by Bruce Tannas





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Success stories

Community Futures Network of Alberta


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