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Small business, sustainable livelihoods, social enterprise, and community economic development are initiatives that appeal to me. Len Fardella’s Peter’s New Jobs listing comes with a calendar of weekly events – some quite intriguing. I decided to check one out Tuesday evening and attended Art of the Start, free trade show and event put on by the Ottawa Community Loan Fund (OCLF). I first read about small business microfinancing in the early 90s and how it could dramatically improve the lives of people, particularly women, in the Global South. I wasn`t aware of any similar initiatives in Ontario or Canada at the time though. However, the restructuring of the economy over the last 30 years seems to be opening doors to social investment here now.

The Art of the Start trade show included representatives from The Hub, a worldwide creative space for social enterprise that will be setting up in Ottawa, Causeway, an organization that has launched a few alternative businesses, and a few other projects, as well as Alterna Credit Union and BDC. The highlight of the evening were the presentations by four entrepreneurs.

Hendrick Jean-Louis of TireNew Recycling talked about his focus and determination and how the OCLF saved his business when his truck broke down. He started the business not quite two years ago and is now the fourth largest tire exporter in Ontario.

Amir Rahim of Grounded Kitchen & Coffeehouse has been an entrepreneur before. He spoke about learning from mistakes, picking a business that he knew about, what he was able to accomplish prior to having the money to open, and the importance of doing something that you love. He`s been open about a year and wants to open a second location.

Emma Inns of Adorit helped start a CED initiative while working in Nepal. Back in Canada she found herself on the other side of the lending equation. She`s recently moved her fair trade eco-fabric shop to a larger location and spoke of the importance of finding a mentor who has strengths in your weaknesses.

The special guest presenter was Tal Dehtiar of Oliberté – This Is Africa. His shoe manufacturing company is based in Ethiopia and has a pretty complex distribution web for what he said is still a small business. Tal spent part of his youth travelling, he`s still young, before getting an MBA and he emphasized the importance of business to lift people out of poverty and into the middle class. He is a determined entrepreneur with strong opinions and big dreams and goals. As he said, there’s money to be made and there are 4.5 billion people who would switch places with you in a heartbeat to be in this country.

It was an inspiring evening!

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