In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.
Balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship is no easy feat, but Smithers’ own Melissa Bennett is doing it in style.
The young mom is the owner of SOLE Shoes, a boutique shoe store providing comfortable, fashionable and affordable quality footwear for women, children and men.
Born and raised in Terrace, BC, Melissa moved to Vancouver when she was 18 and after seven years moved to Prince George, BC with her husband. After another seven years, the pair found their way back up north to the town of Smithers, BC. They now have a four-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter.
Prior to opening her store, Melissa worked as a paralegal for over 15 years. However, after having her second child, she knew she needed a change.
“At this point in my life, I wanted to do something that I was passionate about,” says Melissa. “I wanted a job that would provide enough income to contribute to my household in a meaningful way and also have flexible hours so that I can spend as much time with my children as I can.”
So she spent the last six months of her maternity leave planning and preparing to launch her business, which officially opened its doors on March 1.
While starting a business is tough for any aspiring entrepreneur, it’s especially difficult when you have young children in tow. Fortunately, Melissa had the help of Futurpreneur Canada’s ThriveNorth Program to help her turn her ideas into a reality.
“Without Futurpreneur and ThriveNorth, I would not have been able to open my business,” says Melissa. “Futurpreneur and ThriveNorth provided me with the financing, support and mentorship I needed.”
She also credits other local community organizations for helping get her business off the ground. Bulkley Valley Credit Union provided her with financing, Community Futures offered business resources and WorkBC hosted workshops, which eventually lead to her receiving support through their self-employment program.
Last, but certainly not least, she’s thankful for Smithers and the supportive community it offers.
“We absolutely love Smithers and are so happy being a part of this little mountain town,” says Melissa. “Smithers is a great place to raise a family. We love the people, the ski hill, the little boutiques and all the outdoor fun!”
Melissa is still in the early stages of her new life as a ‘mompreneur,’ but thanks to the supportive Northern BC community, it’s clear that her future is bright.
“There are many resources out there available to help you in getting your business going. Find them and utilize their services – as many of them as you can! They are there to help and the support received is invaluable!”