Man feels delays in developing business plan may cost him his dream

Gary Kean
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Andrew Abbass displays a vial of insect frass on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

CORNER BROOK — Andrew Abbass believes he has a great idea for a business, but feels like his chance to pursue it may have slipped through the cracks.

“I wouldn’t bet on me succeeding in my current situation,” Abbass said.

The native of Labrador came to Corner Brook several years ago to study electronics engineering technology at the College of the North Atlantic.

He did well with the course, but was unable to find work in that particular field of study in western Newfoundland. He took jobs in Western Canada and made some good money, but still hoped to be working full-time in the Corner Brook area.

Last February, Abbass decided to try and get his business idea off the ground. The plan was to start a business called Holistic Nutrients, producing a form of fertilizer not offered locally.

At the time, he said he had enough seed capital for the business, but went to the Department of Advanced Education and Skills and applied to the self-employment assistance program to help get him through the early stages of developing the business. That program, offered by the provincial government, provides eligible people with financial assistance, provided funds are available, while they are starting up a new business.

Before he could be accepted into the self-employment assistance program, Abbass would be sent to the Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC) in Corner Brook. He was told he first needed a business plan before he could work with the CBDC.

“I ended up not getting anywhere with (the Community Business Development Corporation) for such a long time that I went back to looking for full-time work and continued working on the business on the side,” said Abbass. “I just said ‘forget the self employment assistance program.’”

Abbass was drawing Employment Insurance, but that only paying his rent and not covering all of his bills and other expenses. For that, he had to begin dipping into the money he had saved to start up his business.


Assist entrepreneurs

Unable to find a full-time job that paid well, Abbass eventually got connected with the Navigate program, an initiative based out of Grenfell Campus, Memorial University with a mandate to assist new entrepreneurs in western Newfoundland.

In the meantime, he also got help from the City of Corner Brook in identifying potential locations to set up his business.

The Navigate program helped him finally complete the business concept and the plan was approved by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills and referred to the CBDC for further development.

The CBDC released his business plan Oct. 31 and recommended Abbass for the self-employment assistance program. He has been in the self-employment assistance program since Nov. 12.

Mark Kelly, the CBDC’s executive director, thinks Abbass has a good idea that no one is doing anywhere else in Atlantic Canada. In fact, Kelly said Abbass’s idea was turned over more quickly than the average six weeks most business concepts take to get referred by the CBDC to the self-employment assistance program.

“From his first interview with us to the time we submitted the recommendation was three weeks  — well below the average of six weeks,” said Kelly.

“When it went to (Advanced Education and Skills), they turned it around in two weeks. We have seen projects take two and three months before they get final approval.”

Despite going through the process and doing his own due diligence to make his business idea a reality, Abbass is now unsure if he can still make it work. His savings have been significantly evaporating and he feels pursuing his dream may now be too risky.

 “I thought it had potential to go somewhere here (in Corner Brook), but I have to consider other options and I just think it’s a shame,” he said.

“I don’t expect anything to come out of it, but I think it’s important for people to know about my experience with it.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Advanced Education and Skills said Abbass's project was reviewed, processed, approved and implemented within the appropriate timeframe and guidelines of the self-employment assistance program.




Organizations: College of the North Atlantic.He, Community Business Development, Department of Advanced Education and Skills Employment Insurance

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland, Western Canada Atlantic Canada Western Star

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Recent comments

  • Andrew Abbass
    December 18, 2013 - 21:29

    I was attempting to access the 10 week business planning phase, which is all I have been currently approved for and what I am still working within. I tried to access this program initially in February of 2013, but wasn't accepted as a formal applicant until August 22nd. The only reason I was accepted was because of change in how application were being accepted following the sequester. The funding for the program didn't begin until November 27th. That's three months from my 'official application date', but over 9 months since I first approached them with the idea. While applying for this program, I was told I couldn't accept full-time work or even start my business. Any sort of business activity that took place prior to my official business 'start date' would invalidate my claim. I'm not complaining that the program exists. I just think there are some definite implementation problems that need to be addressed if you want to encourage young entrepreneurs to take risks with their finances in this area. My issue is that I absorbed a lot of risk in accepting these sorts of delays and employment restrictions which have impacted my ability to fully develop this business from a plan to a full-blown business during agriculture's off-season. It may seems like a little bit of sour grapes, but I'm just saying expect some delays when trying to access these programs. They're worthwhile, but you have to contingency plan in place.

  • david
    December 18, 2013 - 11:51

    Mr. Abbass: Disregarding any opinion on your specific business idea whatsoever, you walk away from this by venting in the media that various government entities let you down.....which means you didn't learn a valuable lesson at all. Achieving commercial success entails dealing with government as little as legally possible. Government is where money goes to be incinerated. 1) For a business with even a miniscule chance of success, seeking government input or assistance was committing a tedious suicide. 2) For all other "business ideas", by all means fill out the forms ---- government is your answer.

  • Jimbob
    December 18, 2013 - 11:11

    So, you just couldn't be bothered to have made a business plan in a timely manner??? Well they should have just passed you over the money. L

  • IAMtheJIB
    December 18, 2013 - 07:26

    Where does the line start to tell the horror stories about the CBDC? There are an awful lot of people around here with stories to tell. For me, they accepted my business plan, guaranteed me a business loan for 60% of the investment required. The then told me to go ahead and get started with my 40% and by the time that was spent, the loan paperwork would all be completed. Once my 40% was spent, they pulled a U-Turn in the middle of the road and denied the 60% loan( with the excuse that funding was not available now, 1 month later) leaving me hanging in the wind with all my money wasted. Mr. Abbass, don't give up on your dreams because of lack of government support. Consider it a lesson learned and the lesson is, if you can't do it yourself, wait until you can. Groups like CBDC are concerned with one thing, filling their daily schedules so they keep their ACOA funding. Apparently, results of that funding are not required.