Open for Business

If you’re looking to buy a business, help is at hand

Sarah Albertson was born and raised in Vancouver and has a fierce attachment to the city. She got to a point, however, where she was feeling disconnected from the beautiful but increasingly dense and pricey place, pressed for time and stretched for money, and like a slave to long days made longer by commuting.

In 2016, Albertson and her partner, who have a nine-year-old daughter, sold their home and moved to Nelson. For the first time, she has also become a business owner.

Albertson teamed up with a new friend there who had been running her own company offering sewing classes. Together, the two are growing the Nelson Stitch Lab, adding a retail area to its heritage-building space—all with an eye to transforming the shop into a creative studio and community hub.

“I could have never gotten it off the ground had I stayed in Vancouver,” Albertson says. “It’s a real gamble, but it’s really fun, and I’m really excited about it,” says Albertson. “Small towns aren’t what they used to be. People say there are no jobs, but that’s not necessarily the case.”

With so many people leaving Vancouver for a simpler lifestyle in a smaller place, there are more opportunities to go into business to help shape a new life.

Albertson points to Community Futures B.C.—an organization funded by Western Economic Development Canada—as a vital resource for people who, like her, dream of running their own business but basically have no clue where to start. The organization has 34 offices in rural areas of the province and a mandate to help entrepreneurs reach their goals through training, advice and business support services.

“There are viable businesses in Nelson where the owners are simply retiring,” Albertson says. “There are great businesses and everyone in town wants them to continue on, and they’re looking for a buyer.”

Terry Van Horn is the executive director of the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation, which provides economic development services in the region, which includes Rossland, Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale and other areas. It features business opportunities on its Imagine Kootenay website, and the organization’s goal is to develop a “creative, dynamic and competitive business environment that fosters economic growth.”

Based in Trail, Van Horn says Lower Columbia region is being rebranded as Metal Tech Alley, as it is home to world’s largest integrated lead-zinc smelter, a digital-fabrication lab, the globe’s only lithium-ion-battery recycling facility, a large regional hospital, broadband infrastructure and daily flights to Vancouver, all surrounded by mountains and lakes along the Canada-U.S. border.

“These are exciting times; we’re seeing a really vibrant community right now,” Van Horn says. “A lot of people don’t even consider buying a business, but there are a lot of them under $50,000.”

For those contemplating buying a business, there are buyer-beware caveats. Paul Hartanto, financial planner with Coast Capital Savings in the Township of Langley’s Brookswood area, suggests a few steps to consider:

• Have the business’ financials professionally audited and review lease agreements.
• Evaluate whether you can realistically grow revenue and profit, and factor in a likely increase in expenses.
• Determine who the competition is now and who may be the competition in the future.
• Establish the break-even point in terms of years when business profits reach the point of offsetting the cost of purchasing the business.

By: Gail Johnson

Posted in Fall 2018