Lise Wilson has seen many success stories in her two years of running ABC Driver Training in Tłı̨chǫ communities.
On Tuesday, the Akaitcho Business Development Corporation honoured Wilson and two other local companies – Stanley Boxing and Fitness, and True North Electric – with business of the year awards.
The development corporation states they have helped 340 businesses with loans over the past 21 years, creating 395 full-time jobs and 353 part-time jobs in the same time period.
In the past year, general manager Blair Whenham said the corporation has helped 12 businesses to start-up or expand, including six home-based businesses which he sees as a “major trend.”
Conducting driver training in remote communities, Wilson has taught many people who have passed their driving tests and secured gainful employment.
While many who receive their drivers licences leave the community to work in the mines, some of the women Wilson has taught who have gotten their licences have been able to get jobs that allow them to stay in their community.
“We recently just had a lady in one of the smaller communities pass her test and within a week she was already doing the water and sewer in the community. She was really excited,” Wilson said. “I’ve also had one lady who I started with class seven, then class five then up to a class three, and she is now actually even a heavy equipment operator.”
Wilson said it feels wonderful to see this progress. “They’re moving on with their lives and growing and being able to be employed and helping the community,” she added. As a sole business owner, Wilson said working for herself is “the best feeling in the world.”
The company offers training for Class 7, 5, 3 and 1 licences. She’s been doing work for the Tlicho government and is now actively working on expanding further north to the Beaufort Delta and Sahtu. “Possibly maybe even Nunavut, I hear they may need it,” she laughed.
The Akaitcho Business Development Corporation provides repayable loans of up to $200,000 for small businesses in Ndilo, Dettah and Yellowknife. It also help people become self-employed and develop their business ideas, whether just starting up or expanding. While Wilson didn’t get a loan, the corporation mentored her and helped her with her business plan.
Co-owners of Stanley Boxing and Fitness Scott Thompson, left, and John Stanley, right, with Akaitcho BDC chair Darrell Beaulieu. Photo: Samantha Stuart Photography
John Stanley, co-owner of Stanley Boxing and Fitness, said the loans his company has gotten over the years from the development corporation have been important for the club’s expansion.
“Starting out a lot of businesses are not able to get loans from banks unless you’re going to sign your life away personally,” Stanley said. “They base things on your business plan, how you’re running your business at the time.”
Formerly branded Just Fitness, Stanley said membership at the gym and boxing club has been growing. There has been a lot of interest from youth, he said, and the owners have been in Ndilo and Dettah to spread the sport. “We’re volunteering our time down there because we just want to spread the sport, but we’ve gotten a lot of young athletes that want to compete and people that just want to do it for fitness and fun,” he said.
True North Electric also received a business of the year award Tuesday. Presenters said the new business, run by Richard Andrews, is a start-up quickly gaining a client base in Yellowknife through its “reasonable prices and on-time delivery for Yellowknife’s home and business owners’ electrical needs.”
Owner of True North Electric Richard Andrews, with general manager of Akaitcho BDC Blair Whenham. Photo: Samantha Stuart Photography
Being recognized for the hard work – “it’s not easy getting off the ground” – is something Andrews was thankful for. “I couldn’t have done it without being here and in the community. People are willing to give you a chance, I think, is the biggest thing,” he said.
Each of the winners were given $500 to donate to their charity of choice: $1000 went to the NWT SPCA and $500 went to the Yellowknife Women’s Society.