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Group hoping to boost Pictou business through contest seeing promising entries

PICTOU – Getting a business to set up shop in downtown rural Pictou County is a challenge, but Pictou businesses are taking the charge with the hope that someone will take a chance.

The Sink or Swim competition was presented to Pictou entrepreneurs in June as a partnership that would see businesses pool their resources to help a new business get on its feet.

“We had a number of emails to that requesting the information package. Quite optimistic we will get lots of entries,” said Luke Young, president of Pictou Business Development.  “I am optimistic because the names that have contacted us email, they are familiar names, but not familiar enough in each case. I am saying,  ‘Oh that is a new person. That will add to the community.’ Some of them, I see their signature line and a different talent that will add something unique to the community.”

Local businesses are contributing in-kind products and services to a prize package worth $10,000, including hardware, graphic design and printing, rental space, spa services, computer and web services, and legal services.

The competition closes Oct. 15 and a winner will be announced after a panel of judges makes the selection. Some of the services donated include lawyer fees, web and marketing and free business lunches at a local restaurant.

Young said there are many challenges to starting a new business in Pictou County so this is a good way for someone to get started on solid ground, but they still have to be willing to take the risk.

“I saw someone the other day, they have a full-time job and on the side they have been working on their own business and then when they look at the alternative, they are considering moving to Alberta,” Young said. “Even when you think, ‘Hey, I would like to get out of my job,’ often it is to move to another community.”

He said there are still good business opportunities in this county.

“People often don’t realize how many opportunities are out there,” he said. “I feel in my business that is great example. With the demographics of our workforce and province, we often find the active workforce is striking, but the demand for product and services is still there. Whether it’s other suppliers have gone west or have decided to retire or whatever.  There is still a huge demand, but few and few people to supply that.”

Local businesswoman Cathy Ferguson of Sun Life Financial in Pictou said is easy for people to get caught up in the negative, especially with media attention focusing on job losses or environmental concerns, but this competition shows new business owners that their support network is in place.

“When you are in an economically depressed situation, your market is tougher too because you don't have the community support you would have in a stronger market,” she said. “Part of this is showing someone who is going to open a business that they have support and we want businesses to come here.”

Young agreed by saying that people helping people is a much better long-term solution than expecting the government to step in and solve everyone’s problems.

“The real concern and background for the whole competition is that there is an attitude that things are broken and we need the government to step in and fix it,” he said.  “Call your MLA, call whoever and they will fix it, but they have a whole realm of things they have to get through before they can every fix something or do it for you. Yet in our experience, when you are trying to get things done, there is great community. There is great community in the business community and when we put together our annual Christmas celebration all the business people step up and we look to each other to solve some of our own problems instead of waiting for someone to step up.”

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