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At the time of my departure from the business where I was employed for the last 23 years, I profess that the developments were sudden, and I was ill-prepared for the next steps in my career journey. I was fifty-seven years old and had no tangible plan. Additionally, I was suffering from mental health issues. Looking for employment when you are older, feeling unwell and unsure of what skills you have to offer in the current workplace leaves one feeling vulnerable and dejected about one’s ability to provide a quality of life for both yourself and your loved ones.

A couple of months after my departure, I was blessed to have been given an opportunity by someone who saw value in me and my skills at a time when I did not. The opportunity would mean becoming self-employed, however, and I had no idea how I would be able to launch a successful business, while trying to heal and actively look for work.

It was at this time that a colleague mentioned the Self-Employment Program operated by the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg. Once I heard details of the program, I contacted them immediately. After a first meeting with the program and the acceptance of my business concept, I was offered a spot. That acceptance was a life-changing event. It meant I now had access to the professional support and guidance I required, a baseline income while working on my business start-up, relief from undertaking an active job search while trying to start a business, and the knowledge/ support of a peer group going through the same process. That would have been enough, but it provided so much more. The design of the program also gave me structure at a time when I was having trouble focusing and meeting deadlines.

It comes as no surprise that after five years, approximately 50% of small business ventures in Canada fail. Within my cohort, I saw people with excellent ideas and strengths but also lacking skills and understanding in certain areas that are / would be vital to their future success. Without the holistic and supported structure of programs such as the Y’s Self-Employment Program, it is clear that many business ventures that could survive, will not. It begs the question how many of failed first-time small business ventures might have been successful if they had only had access/requirement to go through a program such as this.

It is clear to me now that without the good fortune of being admitted into the Self-Employment Program, my story would certainly have a different ending. While the future always remains unknown to us, my current business venture is doing well, my self-worth has increased, and I am once again a contributing member of society.

It feels good to be back.