reprinted with permission from North Island Gazette

Entrepreneurship Growing in Port Alice  

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic in Port Alice these days, as the village undergoes an Economic Development strategy to help diversify its economy. A community open house survey in September showed that 75% of attendees have considered starting a small business. Leading the way, three Port Alice women have started small businesses this year, using their passions and unique skills to help increase options and convenience in the community.

Critter Clips – Pet Grooming

Twelve-year Port Alice resident Tracy Roper wanted to focus on a career she enjoys, and to supplement her part-time work as manager of Alderwood Acres Mobile Home Park.  She officially opened Critter Clips in October, to provide a local pet grooming service that includes baths, fur grooming and clipping, and nail clipping.

“It was a perfect opportunity to bring something to town that wasn’t available,” says Roper. “There are a lot of elderly people that have dogs that need grooming, but can’t get out of town.”

What differentiates Critter Clips is Roper’s willingness and flexibility to accommodate clients with mobility issues or large-breed dogs.

“A lot of groomers won’t do large dogs, but I have no problem with them,” she says. “I’ve also picked up dogs for people that don’t drive. I have portability, so I’m willing to drive out of town if necessary. People have been appreciative of the whole service.”

An animal lover who grew up with horses, birds, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, and has even raised rabbits, Roper is completing the final components of her Pet Grooming Certificate through International Career School. She says business has started well, but there are challenges to balancing overhead expenses with keeping prices reasonable during difficult economic times locally.

Appointments are available from Monday to Friday, with possible Saturday appointments. Contact Critter Clips at 250-209-2760or tracyroper@xplornet.com

North Island Song – Piano and Vocal Instruction

Port Alice newcomer Courtney Friggstad launched North Island Song in September, to provide one-on-one piano and vocal instruction based on classical training.

“I have a passion for music and love to teach, and I saw there was a need for it here,” says she says.

Friggstad has Grade 8 Royal Conservatory in both piano and singing, Grade 2 Rudiments, operatic soprano and musical theatre training, sang in performances, and competed in provincial competitions in her native Saskatchewan. She also taught a children’s choir on contract in Port McNeill and Sointula.

“I teach children proper techniques so they can be empowered with the skills they need to play or sing what they want as they advance or get older,” says Friggstad. “I also adapt my teaching style depending on what the student needs, and I make sure it is fun and comfortable for kids.”

North Island Song currently provides lessons on Wednesday and Thursday evenings for children ages 5-18. There is currently has a waiting list, and Friggstad hopes to introduce additional options for adults in the future. She is grateful for a welcoming community and support from Community Futures, who met with her in Port Alice to provide support and advice on challenges like figuring out tax regulations and getting the right licenses.

On taking the step to start something new, she says, “If you have a vision, and the right people to support and educate you as you push yourself, you will surprise yourself at what you accomplish.”  Contact North Island Song atcourtney.friggstad@hotmail.com  or 250-209-2756.


The Assistant – Business Services

Another new business to Port Alice this year aims to help other small businesses and job seekers. With the tagline “How Can I Help You?,” The Assistant Business Services provides freelance assistance from marketing messaging, to sign, business card and brochure design, to office assistance in word processing or data entry, to targeted resumes and cover letters.

Owner and operator Trish Weatherall says, “My goal is to help people succeed – to get a job or increase business – by helping them create a professional image and market themselves effectively. Small businesses often can’t afford an assistant or marketing specialist on staff, but I can provide help as they need it.”

Raised in Gold River, Weatherall spent two decades in Ontario where she earned a Journalism diploma and was a marketing communications specialist for more than 15 years. She returned to Vancouver Island in 2011 and started The Assistant in April 2015 to supplement her part-time municipal office job in Port Alice.

“Business has been consistent with resumes, because there’s a need for that now,” she says. “I’m looking forward to helping more small businesses in whatever way I can. Diversity is important if you’re running a business in a low-population area.”

While the majority of her clients are based in Port Alice, she has also worked online with people in Ontario, Vancouver, Penticton, Port Hardy and Port McNeill. Contact Trish at 284-0140 or trish@theassistant.ca.

Advice from a local small business owner

Kimberly Chabot operated her own business, Cedarwood Bodywork and Massage, in Port Alice for 6 years, until she recently decided to take some time off to focus on motherhood with her second child due soon. She has two pieces of advice for new business owners, “1: Pay attention to the views of your town and adapt to the interests of what will work in that town. And 2: Be straight up with who you are. I stayed true to myself with what I could handle.” 

As a Certified Massage Therapist, Chabot focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit through massage therapy, sports massage, and deep tissue massage, and also teaches deep breathing, relaxation and how to heal mind chatter. “I help people create a healthy vision of ways to eat healthy, to feel healthy, and to keep a healthy mind so they can live better lives and have a positive outlook on life.”

She started the business out of her home so she could create a lifestyle that worked for her family, making her own hours, her own decisions, and answering only to herself. She had to work with the challenge of not being registered, which meant clients don’t get reimbursed by health insurance. She dealt with it by charging low rates, advertising through clients’ word of mouth and educating the public about the benefits of massage therapy.

According to BC Stats’ Small Business Profile 2015, small business (fewer than 50 employees), provides over 1 million jobs in BC and of these, almost 200,000 are self-employed. The BC Labour Market Outlook forecasts that employment growth will focus on health services, the professional, scientific and management industries, as well as finance, insurance and real estate.

For more information on starting a small business, visit www.smallbusinessbc.ca or contact the Community Futures Mount Waddington office at 250-956-2220, or stop by the Port Alice Community Centre on Thursdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. to meet with a representative of Community Futures.