Rural prairie entrepreneurs have plenty of unique challenges. Those who also have a disability or a health condition can have even more.
An annual initiative of Community Futures — the non-profit organization that assists economic development in rural communities — called Just Watch Me! is aimed at celebrating the successes of people with disabilities or health conditions while encouraging others to embrace entrepreneurship.
The program opened for submissions on Monday in recognition of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (Dec. 3). Any entrepreneur with a disability or health condition operating in rural Manitoba or Saskatchewan can produce a short video about their business to participate.
The winner will receive $1,000 in cash and prizes to support their business.
Program manager Susan Bater, who originally thought up the idea and has been running it since 2011, said they’ve already received more than half the total submissions from last year.
“We expect the number will be higher this year,” she said.
Last year’s winner was Lucy Fouasse of Lil’ Steps Miniatures & Wellness Farm in St. Malo. Fouasse suffered a head injury with symptoms that limited what she was able to do.
In her winning video, Fouasse said that being able to spend time with the animals during her recovery taught her to look at her strengths, rather than her limitations.
Bater said the program is to encourage those who have a passion to run their own business despite constraints their health may present. One in five Canadians have a disability and those numbers are growing as the population ages.
“We want to encourage people,” Bater said. “We want people to see it (entrepreneurism) as a viable option.”
Community Futures has a number of support programs for entrepreneurs with disabilities, including a loan program for up to $150,000.
“We recognize that people with disabilities, especially if they’ve had to leave the workforce, face unique challenges, for instance with credit rating and things like that,” she said. “Our program can be more flexible in its loan requirements as long as the business is viable.”
Entrepreneurs encouraged to share their story