Troops get business lessons

An entrepreneurship initiative through the Prince’s Charities Canada is preparing members of the Canadian Forces for life after military service.

Gathered at the University of Regina’s Paul J. Hill business school for a weeklong entrepreneurial boot camp are 20 servicemen and women from all over Canada, who are interested in starting their own businesses when they leave the military.

“This is our thank you for the brave men and servicewomen of the Canadian Forces,” said Matthew Rowe, manager of charitable operations for Prince’s Charities Canada.

Rowe said Charles, the Prince of Wales, wanted to do more for members of the Canadian Forces, especially since there’s going to be many of them leaving the forces with the ramping down of action in Afghanistan.

“So he asked us to see what we could do and we looked at the scene and found that while there was a lot of skill-training programs, there was no support for entrepreneurs,” Rowe said.

During the boot camp, which started on Saturday, participants are attending lectures on everything from human resources, finance and marketing, Rowe said.

“It’s really a crash course in running their own businesses,” Rowe said.

Participants are also paired up with business students who serve as their mini-mentors and help them work on their business plans.

At the end of the week, they are handed off to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, which works with the participants by providing them with a business mentor in their community for up to two years.

Participants also have access to up to $45,000 in financing to get their businesses off the ground. Dave Brimacombe is an aircraft structural technician with the Canadian Air Force based out of British Columbia.

But he also had a passion for micro-distilling, which has been made even more appealing to him by some changes in the B.C. economy.

“You no longer have to have a half a million dollars to start a distillery – you can do it with $100,000,” Brimacombe said.

“So I thought: The industry is brand new and it’s going to do the same thing that craft beer did – and we can all remember craft beer 10 years ago, in that it wasn’t there and now it’s everywhere.”

Brimacombe’s business idea is to ferment honey and make small batches of premium gins and vodkas to sell in specialty retail and boutique stores.

There are only two producers of honey-based spirits that Brimacombe is aware of in North America – one of them in New York and another in Washington.

“So I hope to capitalize on that and make something that people have not tried yet and will hopefully like very much,” he said.

Brimacombe said he is learning so much from the intensive business course.

While he already knows a lot about distilling, he knew relatively little about running a business at the beginning of the program. “Every hour in here I learn something that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. And that’s exciting,” he said, adding that he has already defined his target market and made a business model.

Regina Leader-Post | Regina, Saskatchewan