Susan's Super Citizen Showcase

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Roxanne leads the way to self-employment at SCC

SCC program manager Roxanne DaviesEvery day in her downtown Vancouver office, Roxanne Davies listens to people’s ideas. From engineers to dog walkers, financial planners to art therapists, business managers to yoga instructors, computer programmers and costume designers – they all come to Roxanne’s office at 789 Pender Street to tell her about their skills, experiences, and interests. They tell their stories and explain what they hope to gain from taking a 10-day course that teaches the fundamentals of self-employment.

At one time Roxanne was a reporter who wrote human interest stories in Montreal and Vancouver, and it is this interest in people and their lives that makes her enjoy her role as the program manager for Successful Contracting and Consulting.

“What I loved about reporting was interviewing people so now I get a chance to interview people every day. I get to hear all about their stories and their dreams and their schemes,” she says.

Program applicants must present a clear idea about what exactly they wish to do as self-employed people. Chances are, as the course progresses, their ideas will evolve, but it is important to start with at least one focused concept.

“If you’re not clear about what you want to do, you feel weak. You’ve got so many ideas, but you need to start with one,” Roxanne says. “We want people to really get clarity around their consulting area and figure out a way of reaching clients and, most importantly, to get paid. If you really are excited about what you do, then it’s that much easier to sell it to a client – and this comes with clarity.”

In the program, 14 participants gather in the window-framed boardroom to listen to the advice of experienced consultants who come to SCC to talk about marketing, networking, legalities, banking, accounting systems, negotiating price, giving presentations, creating business plans, writing consulting proposals, managing projects, and understanding different personality types. They work together in break-out sessions and rehearse contractor-client scenarios and brainstorm solutions to each other’s challenges. Their ideas come to life when they share them with others and this can be especially valuable for people who spend their time alone in home-based offices, studios, or shops.

“Isolation is a dream-killer and if you tend to work at home, you’re isolated,” says Roxanne. “A lot of folks really feel like they can generate some energy to move forward because they feel like they’ve got people who care about them and who know what they’re doing and who are positive.”

Established in 1998, SCC is a joint partnership between the New Directions Business Re-Training Association and Service Canada. Roxanne, who has been with SCC since the beginning, explains how the federal government approached New Directions to help them cope with fall-out from companies that were downsizing.

“A lot of professionals, managers, and supervisors were finding themselves out of work and, at a certain point in a person’s life, it’s very hard for them to get back into the job market with the skills they have at the price they want to be paid. A number of people were trying to launch consulting careers but they were just not having any luck. They just weren’t making enough money. So the government saw a need for a concise practical program to cover all the fundamentals about starting a consulting business and so it was really geared for the unemployed manager or supervisor,” she says.

SCC’s goal is to show that people are working three months after they leave the program.

“For the past nine years, we’ve met our goals and people are working now. I would be lying to say that everyone became a consultant and that everybody was making as much money as they wanted, but I would say a good 40 percent of the people that take our program eventually call themselves consultants and there’s no looking back,” Roxanne says. “If you really are diligent about building up your business it can take up to six months to start making some money.”

Each monthly class is full to capacity and sometimes there are waiting lists. The average age of participants is 45, with some as young as 23 and as old as 72. About 55 percent are women and 75 percent are first-born or only children. Unlike other self-employment programs for people collecting Employment Insurance, anyone can take the SCC program as long as they are unemployed or “underemployed,” which means working less than 20 hours per week.

Roxanne invites anyone considering self-employment to get in touch with SCC and sign up for a program orientation meeting. “Come on board!” she says, with a laugh. “We’d be very happy to help and my motto is: ‘Never give up!’”

For more information, visit SCC on the Web

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