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Self-Employment Training Program

At the Y, we believe in your potential to develop and grow a successful business. Our Self-Employment program provides essential services to help turn a great business idea into successful self-employment.

Remote Operations

This program is currently being offered remotely via Zoom. Participants will need access to their own computer and reliable internet access to participate fully in the program. 

All of the trainers and coaches of our Self-Employment Program are self-employed business owners who possess diverse experience and expertise. Upon acceptance to the program, you will be assigned a coach to assist on the development of your business plan, as well as other business coaching needs. The amount of total assistance given, in terms of hours, will vary and is dependent upon a participant’s individual needs.

Program Components

The Self-Employment Program is run in three phases.

Phase 1 consists of:

  • 6 weeks of full-time, mandatory courses directly related to setting up and operating a business as well as the development of a business plan

Phase 2 consists of:

  • 7 weeks of working with a business coach to complete a comprehensive business plan that is submitted by the end of the 12th week

Phase 3 consists of:

  • launching a business  
  • operating the venture (while continuing to collect Employment Insurance Benefits or Living Allowance, for a maximum of 39 weeks)
  • receiving business coaching for the remaining 38 weeks

Participation Requirements & Expectations

As a participant, you must work toward the creation of a sustainable business venture with an objective to replace your Employment Insurance Benefits.

Once accepted into Phase 1 of the program, you must attend the initial six-week training period.

To gain access to Phase 2, you must:

  • have successfully completed Phase I.
  • work with your assigned coach over the following seven weeks to complete a comprehensive business plan by the end of week 12.

To be accepted into Phase 3, you must:

  • submit a complete business plan by the end of week 12
  • Launch your business plan by the end of week 13
  • have been approved into Phase 3 by the Director
  • have monthly contact with your coach
  • submit a monthly progress report and a monthly income statement. These documents will remain the property of the program and of the Manitoba Jobs and Skills Development and through them to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, re the Freedom of Information Act.


To be eligible, you must:

  • be unemployed or underemployed
  • be currently in receipt of Employment Insurance Benefits or were in receipt of Employment Insurance Benefits within the past 3 years or received maternity/parental benefits with the past 5 years
  • demonstrate that participation in the Self-Employment Program is the most appropriate option
  • have a viable and feasible business concept
  • be legally entitled to work in Canada
  • be able to contribute equity toward the business (either in cash or in kind) in the amount of 25 percent of the total project, up to a maximum of $4,000
  • NOT have been funded for skills training within the past two years
  • NOT have been funded for the Self-Employment Program
  • NOT have started your business or be deemed to be self-employed (according to Canada Revenue Agency regulations) prior to being accepted into the Self Employment Program

For more information, please email Rushana Newman, Director of Employment Services, at

PLEASE NOTE: To remain eligible for Employment Insurance Benefits while your application for the Self Employment Program is being considered, you must be able to prove that you are still unemployed and available for work and that you are continuing to make an effort to find work.

Success Stories

  • Self-Employment Program
  • Alicia's Story

    photo of businesswoman

    Alicia has always been passionate about law. When she moved to Canada from Argentina in 2003, it took 11 years of hard work to finally be called to the bar and begin working in her field here in Canada. However, soon after starting, Alicia was feeling overwhelmed by ever increasing workplace demands and having little time for family or friends.

    She quickly grew tired of the tension she experienced while trying to log and bill an incredible number of hours to earn her salary, so Alicia made the difficult decision to quit her job.

    Seeking assistance, she met with a career advisor who mentioned the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg’s Self-Employment Program. Having owned and operated a business in Argentina, she knew a thing or two about entrepreneurship, but the idea of opening a business in a foreign country was an intimidating one.

    When she learned that the Y’s program offered 52 weeks of training and coaching, as well as financial support, she decided to take a leap and enroll.

    “I chose the Y because it offered the most complete program of this kind, and free of charge! The great structure of the classes and the completeness of the topics were very relevant to becoming an entrepreneur”, explains Alicia.

    Over the course of the program, Alicia learned how to build, launch and grow her business.

    Within months, Alicia had turned her love for law into Laufer Notary, a mobile notary public service that opened in January 2018 and was recognized as a top three notary public in Winnipeg the same year!

    A year and half later, Alicia has grown her business and client base to a point where she is earning a comfortable income and has time for work, family and friends.

    “I really don’t know where I would be without the Self-Employment Program. My husband trusted my abilities of being an entrepreneur and my family in Argentina is proud of all my courage to open a business in Canada.” says Alicia.

    “Having my own business and working for myself was one of the best decisions I have made and without the confidence I gained through the Y’s Self-Employment Program, it would have been impossible.”

  • Darrell's Story

    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.

  • James' Story

    a man stands in front of marine construction material

    James Leclair knows construction.  As early as 10-years-old, he can remember learning the tools of the trade, thanks to his father, who introduced James to the industry through the family’s construction company. Now an adult and father of three, James is deep into the construction business, both literally and figuratively.  James made a name for himself in the difficult and dangerous world of marine (underwater) construction. Over 19 years, James worked his way through the commercial diving ranks to become a Diving Superintendent; an incredible accomplishment in an industry where 80% of trainees fail and only 10% who pass, go on to full careers.

    Despite his success, James still felt troubled. “After working for companies that showed little loyalty for their employees and only loyalty to money, I needed more," says James. Knowing that he needed to reach for the next level, taking the big step out of his comfort zone to become an owner was very intimidating.  James recalls, “I had my family - I was a divorced father that would do anything to stay in my daughters’ lives. The only thing preventing me from starting my business was the insecurity of having money to pay my bills.”

    James considered resigning from the only employer in central Canada, but relocating for work meant leaving his family, which was not an option. He also considered changing careers and returning to heavy equipment operations where he had started with his dad. Then, when he found himself on EI due to insufficient work in the province, he decided it was finally time to step out on his own.

    An online search for resources led him to the Y’s Self-Employment Program. After reading about it, James learned that participants continue to receive EI benefits while attending classes, writing their business plan and receiving coaching. Plus, if their EI runs out, additional financial support in the form of a Living Allowance is also available. “It gave me that comfy feeling of being able to pay my bills while I risked it!” exclaims, James. And, with classes taught by successful entrepreneurs from the community, the program offers a melting pot of views and ideas, tips and teachings to become a successful business.

    With the help of the Y’s Self-Employment Program, Amphibious Construction was launched in September 2018.  During its first year of business, they nearly doubled their financial projections and actually had to turn down work it was so busy. Now, having graduated the program, James eagerly looks toward year two, saying “next year we will have more equipment and personnel to supply the influx of demand we are facing, and we are looking at going five times over our first year’s projections."

    When asked to look back on where he is now compared to when he started the program, James replied, “I am much happier and feel like the world is my oyster. I will pursue challenges head on and make them a success."