© Geraldine Brophy
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.
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.