Featurepreneur: CAPRE: Tiny Businesses, Extraordinary Impact

Featurepreneur: CAPRE: Tiny Businesses, Extraordinary Impact
By Genevieve Allen Hearn

We tend to valorize a certain entrepreneurial archetype: the entrepreneur who started small and made it big, the entrepreneur who is an industry leader, the entrepreneur who is a financial success. But what of the entrepreneurs who overcome major obstacles every single day to continue to run their tiny businesses? What of the entrepreneurs who will never become wealthy, but are rich in social capital?

Community Association of People for REAL Enterprise (CAPRE) is an organization that contributes to the entrepreneurial landscape in small but extremely important ways. CAPRE helps individuals with an intellectual disability setup and run their own businesses. Currently, CAPRE represents eleven entrepreneurs running service-based businesses such as laundering or shredding, as well as product-based businesses such as creating hand-sewn goods, dog treats, or spice mixes. Every entrepreneur receives one-on-one support, and is part of a business planning team comprised of a support worker, the entrepreneur’s parents, a member of the business community, and the executive director of CAPRE. The entrepreneurs are empowered to direct the team if they are able to do so.

Lee Van Amerongen, owner of Lee’s Shop in Canning since 1999, is one of these entrepreneurs. Although he is non-verbal, he is very involved in determining the direction of his business. Lee’s interest in artisanal products from around the world has resulted in an array of international merchandise available at his store.

CAPRE was founded by four mothers of children with intellectual disabilities, Lee’s mother being one of them, in 1978. The women wanted an opportunity for their adult children to participate in community life. What started as a summer recreation program grew into an organization that provided meaningful employment to persons with high needs. The first business, run by Krista Taylor, started operating in 1995 (Krista’s Around the Town Services) and other businesses blossomed from there.

CAPRE is a person-centered program that takes into consideration the ability level of each entrepreneur involved. They match each entrepreneur’s skills, talents, and interests with an opportunity in the community. Kathleen Purdy is a board member and mother of entrepreneur Brendon Purdy-Smith. She tells the story of how she noticed Brendon’s fascination with stirring, and turned it into an applesauce business. Brendon now runs Mr. B’s Makery, which adds new products each year. “Every support worker has introduced a new element to Brendon’s business,” says Purdy. You can find crayons in fun shapes, magic wands, and of course, the ubiquitous tie-dyed shirts, among other colourful creations at Mr. B’s Makery. Purdy says that “without CAPRE there wouldn’t be anything Brendon would be doing on a regular basis. At CAPRE, he is learning and making friends.” I purchased a package of Mr. B’s seeds with a cheeky warning label: “Caution: Being outdoors may result in increased levels of Vitamin D.” It is evident that the business planning team thoughtfully infused Brendon’s sense of humour into his product line.

There are limitations to what CAPRE can do presently. “We are at capacity with eleven entrepreneurs,” executive director Kate Trevors explains. “There is a huge need to serve people who don’t fit the criteria of other work programs.” The criteria Trevors is referring to is people who do not require one-on-one support in a work environment. While there are other community work programs for adults with barriers, they often cannot provide the attention required for high needs employees. As a result, many people slip through the cracks. CAPRE would love to support more entrepreneurs, but there are three major barriers: funding, space, and volunteers.

When it comes to space, Trevors is open to the possibilities. The entrepreneurs could use retail space, workspace, or even short-term use of space, such as a kitchen prep area.

As for funding, there are some upcoming opportunities to support CAPRE. On April 7 there will be a spring concert fundraiser at the St. James Anglican Church in Kentville. This concert is stacked with local talent and will be hosted by Bill Carr. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at R.D. Chisholm Stationery & Books in Kentville, Long & McQuade in New Minas, or The Box of Delights Bookshop in Wolfville. They can also be purchased online at capre.org. Also, on March 24 “A Dressy Affair” will take place at the Louis Millett Community Complex in New Minas. Donated dresses will be sold at reasonable prices and other items will be auctioned off at the event. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by calling Paula Huntley at 902-690-5298.

As my chat with Trevors and Purdy concluded, I was invited over to Matt Cameron’s workspace. Matt is a shredder enthusiast, and takes his shredding business very seriously. Another thing he takes seriously: sugary drinks. He explained his shot ritual and gave me a shot of cranberry juice before I left. There were at least a dozen boxes behind Matt, filled with paper waiting to be shredded. I asked Matt how long shredding takes, and he told me approximately an hour per box. He was unfazed by the 12 hours of work piled behind him, and spoke about his business with pride. A true entrepreneur indeed.

For more information on CAPRE visit capre.org.