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How can cities support entrepreneurs?

The Toronto Public Library offers small business help via the library’s Entrepreneur in Residence and Newcomer Entrepreneurs in Residence program at three library branches. Two of the current Entrepreneurs are CSI members! We asked Victoria Alleyne to tell us a bit about the experience, and how the City of Toronto could do a better job of setting up entrepreneurs for success.

Victoria is the CEO of CatalystsX. Their vision is “A world of thoughtful, responsible people making positive change in the world. We connect changemakers (“Catalysts”) with people, resources and opportunities to thrive.

What has been the most surprising thing so far about being TPL’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence?
I did not expect so many people to approach me with social / environmental focuses. Maybe it was because I mentioned it a lot in my bio, but it was a constant and joyful surprise that the majority of the people who approached me had some social or environmental angle, it made everything ten times more satisfying. Plus, because that’s what I specialize in, I was able to provide some solid connections and feedback.

What do you think the city could be doing to better support entrepreneurs?

A few things!

1. Affordable or free childcare. It helps everyone – people think of it as a “women’s thing”, but really any parent will be better able to pursue entrepreneurship knowing their kids are well looked after and in an affordable way. Not to mention this helps people who are marginalized, and these are the people who may not have as much opportunity to start businesses, compared to many entrepreneurs right now who are from a middle class background with a safety net.

2. Basic income, for the above reasons. Maybe we can pilot it even without provincial support.

3. Really, really good incentives for businesses to be more environmental. Free public transit? Rebates for calculating and decreasing carbon footprint? Preferential treatment for reducing waste? Expediated services for eco companies?

4. I think the city should acknowledge (not just a land acknowledgement!) that we are on Indigenous land, and act accordingly. We should put Indigenous peoples’ views and opinions at the front and centre of everything we do, and make sure people are compensated, valued, and amplified. I’m excited about the Indigenous Business Zone that is starting up soon but it’s definitely not enough.

5. Creating a culture of mental wellness. Entrepreneurship is often very stressful and isolating. We shouldn’t just have resources for people who are in a mental health crisis. We should be preventing this in the first place with access to affordable wellness resources, talking about it more….I integrate mental health in almost everything I do when I’m talking entrepreneurship to make up for the fact it’s not talked about in so many other areas!

6. I think business and government really need to get out of their “one way fits all” mentality. Some of the brightest minds haven’t and will never go to business school, and that’s okay. Instead of forcing them to learn the business jargon, we should find ways to support them better. I also think that we should look at ways of supporting informal business / changemaking, such as grassroots leaders who are providing valuable services to the community. I guess that also loops back to basic income.

7. And of course, people always need startup funding with as little red tape as possible.

What is your biggest hope for your work? What does the world look like if all those hopes come true?
CatalystsX is a nonprofit whose vision is a world of thoughtful, responsible changemaking. Our mission is that changemakers are connected to the people, resources, and opportunities to survive and thrive. I think that kind of sums it up. The environment and Indigenous knowledge need to be at the centre of all of this changemaking from now and into the future.

How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in your work?
Stay connected on Facebook and so forth for upcoming events. Let us know if you want to partner for things, it’s not always possible but I’m open to hearing ideas. We’re also now building ourselves up a bit more as an emerging governance platform, basically meaning if you’re an unincorporated group we may be able to take you under our wing for projects you’re working on so you can apply for funding with us.

Finish this sentence (with as much detail as you’d like) “In another universe I am a _______-in-residence”

In THIS universe I’m a reader-swimmer-soca-dancer-environmentaoverthinker-in-residence.

What is your dream title? Let’s make it happen at CSI!

Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels
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