Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment

by Open Sky Co-operative Ltd.
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Be Your Own Boss - empowered employment
Kat exploring resin designs.
Kat exploring resin designs.

You did it!

You helped us reach our financial goal for the Be Your Own Boss – Empowered Employment program in 2021!  Thanks to you we have several budding entrepreneurs who are seeing new possibilities for their futures.

One participant has been earning income from marketing his musical talents, gleaning new opportunities for paid performances and giving guitar lessons.

Debbie, the creator of “Lighthouse Baking” has discovered a great marketing technique for her delicious treats – promoting pre-orders for large batches of mixed sweets for special occasions such as Christmas and Valentines Day.

Fall and winter events in the community offered Kat, a gifted designer and sculptor, opportunities to practice planning and preparing her unique creations for sale. She aspires to have an online outlet for her hand-sculpted jewelry one day. Selling at these local events helps her build confidence and at the same time, shows Open Sky staff how they can support Kat in reaching her goals.

Bookkeeper, Scott, has added new clients. As business grows and Scott gets busier, his mentor is offering next level coaching on things like timing and information management systems.

Your donations mean that these inspiring individuals and other BYOB “grads” are pursuing their dreams and will receive ongoing coaching and mentoring to make their businesses the best they can be.

To expand our capacity to build skills… and community…. for young adults living with ASD, and other social or learning disabilities and/or mental health challenges, Open Sky is working on plans to build a dedicated workshop, or as one of our friends calls it, a “maker-space” in 2022. This space will mean we can serve more people and build new possibilities for the future. Watch for details as to how you can help with this next exciting project at Open Sky Co-operative.

Sending you so much gratitude for your generosity!

Debbie's new promotional approach.
Debbie's new promotional approach.
"Music is my superpower"!
"Music is my superpower"!
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It's great to provide a positive update on activities following our 2021 employment training!

Our budding bookkeeper has gained lots of experience managing the books for a local coffee truck business and was recently invited to do books for a new local restaurant. In these early stages of working with another start-up, it has been important for everyone to learn more about taxation systems, special rules for restaurants, and best practices for keeping track of finances so that a restaurant can assess its financial successes and challenges appropriately. There are so many more expenses for this new business than for the coffee truck! We appreciate having a friendly neighbourhood accountant who will help our bookkeeper set up the Chart of Accounts for these books, to ensure a good start.

Lighthouse Baking had a very successful summer, baking and selling organic cookies at our local Farmer's Market. It was thrilling to see many customers come back, week after week, especially when they liked a product and returned for more. As fall is here, plans are now turning toward how to carry on through the winter. It is expected that Market costs will be higher for indoor space, and we wonder if the pandemic might also put a damper on prospects. We are coaching Lighthouse Baking to anticipate the possible challenges, and then determine criteria with which to decide if or how to proceed during the winter. Running your own business can be so complicated!

Lighthouse Baking were not the only ones at the Farmer's Market. Through the summer, several BYOB grads experimented with new product development, and were able to create some spice and herb mixes (based upon products grown at Open Sky) to sell at the Market. Others enjoyed simply manning the Open Sky booth, and selling seasonal vegetables while also chatting with others in the community. These opportunities to meet new people, and have them get to know Open Sky and BYOB participants, can set the stage for important business relationships later, opening up opportunities when BYOB grads are ready for employment commitments.

Open Sky is grateful for the generous contribution that AirBnB members provided to Open Sky recently, through GlobalGiving, to enable more Be Your Own Boss trainings to happen. We are planning our next training sessions for early 2022 – so fortunate to be able to continue our work when many still struggle through the pandemic. We wish all our supporters well, with many, many thanks.

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First Day at the Sackville Farmer's Market
First Day at the Sackville Farmer's Market

It is so good to report again, and update you on our employment development activities!

It's June, and our winter/spring 2021 Be Your Own Boss training period program is completed. Eleven adults took part for 16 days, learning about mental health and the workplace, managing life/work balance, how businesses are organized and run, how to analyse the local business sector for opportunities, and especially how to develop and start a co-operative business.

Not everyone who completed the program has moved ahead into starting a business, but all experienced huge benefits.

One participant returned to school, and will be ready for employment in September. Six more have returned to receive additional Open Sky supports, as they are not ready for employment yet, due to unmet mental health and other needs. But four are definitely pursuing Being Their Own Bosses.

One has completed online certification in bookkeeping, and is now receiving Open Sky coaching support to find initial work experiences to get that career launched.

Another is being coached to apply what he learned about budgets and finances to better price his 'general labourer' skills, and then promote self-employment in his community.

Two others are being coached in their new business: Lighthouse Baking. This small business has a menu of cookies, that they make largely from local organic ingredients, that they sell at the Sackville Farmer's Market. Having received good start-up support from Open Sky (support for their business model; initial purchases of ingredients and tools; use of the Open Sky kitchen; assistance at the Market), Lighthouse Baking plans to move into another community organization's kitchen in July. They will still join with Open Sky at the weekly Market through to October, and then will assess their business experiences to set new goals from there.

It is exciting to see so many people empowered and enabled to pursue their dreams, and to build autonomy of purpose. 

At Open Sky, all of our Mentors report that the BYOB Program seemed to have a wide, positive effect on everyone who participated (even those who had returned to Open Sky to help in the kitchens and with organizing the BYOB program). Each person seems to be standing a bit taller, demonstrating more maturity in their work and relationships, and taking more responsibility for setting and achieving personal goals.

Every way we look at it, we see our Be Your Own Boss Program as a rich, important and unique approach to helping people overcome their barriers, and developing the lives they want to live. We look forward to planning another training in 2021-22, and hope that we can continue to receive your support.

Thank you so much!!!

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Project Leadership during Covid
Project Leadership during Covid

Hello friends,

Despite the uncertainties. the stops and starts, and the turmoil of this past year, we are finally getting the opportunity to begin our training program this week! We have identified and accepted 12 young adults for our 4-week training program, and look forward to providing them with several months of follow-up coaching, as some of them build new businesses together and others become more ready for the regular workforce.

Covid-19 restrictions mean that we have had to modify how we would usually gather and usually teach this program:

  • everyone (participants, leaders) is screened daily for possible Covid symptoms
  • to reduce the numbers of people possibly coming into contact with each other, we have divided our learning community into smaller groups in 2 different rooms, with appropriate distancing between everyone
  • when not seated eating or drinking, everyone must remained masked
  • our mid-afternoon break gets everyone outside for a quick walk, while we open up each training room for a fresh air exchange
  • our partner/co-leader, Rebekah Cant, from the Neil Squire Society, is providing key leadership from a distance, via online conferencing tools
  • local business leader guests are coming in by Zoom, as we can't go visit them in their businesses
  • we have also had to modify some activities so that there is no sharing of handout materials

Ever the optimists, we feel that this is an opportune time to take another look at our local business sector, and think perhaps differently about what a 'good business idea' will look like in our post-Covid future. We can learn so much from the local businesses that have been able to find success in the ever-changing present, and will listen keenly to their advice.

All of us sense increasing recognition of the pre-existing challenges that many adults have faced regarding employment, that are simply being un-masked by the current context. We are excited to anticipate what we will learn from the people gathered together for this training, and how we can provide ever-improving and supports and opportunities to this important sector of our community into the future.

Thank you so much for your support which has brought us this far! Stay tuned, to hear how this training turns out!

BYOB grad (2016) supports 2021 training plans
BYOB grad (2016) supports 2021 training plans
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Scott demonstrates the value of a button
Scott demonstrates the value of a button

Thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts as we all manage our way through Covid-19 challenges! We hope that you and yours are all doing well too.

We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where, through community co-operation, we have kept the worst effects of Covid-19 away from most of the vulnerable people in our region. Our program participants have been committed to following masking and distancing requirements, and for that we are proud. They have also been showing initiative to respond to emerging challenges with creativity and hard work.

If our Covid-19 numbers stay low (as they have so far) we will be running our BYOB Program in January 2021. The program has been reformatted to involve a mix of in-person and online training formats, so that distancing restrictions can be respected, while also allowing each individual some face-to-face training sessions. We are in conversation with colleagues ‘across the marsh’ in Nova Scotia, with hopes that some of their employment development candidates can participate as well. This way, we hope to fill all available spaces.

As with all things, keeping an optimistic attitude, and paying attention to the needs and opportunities of our world are key to success. For example, BYOB candidate, Scott, got an early start, and is being mentored as he leads a new social enterprise on behalf of Open Sky. He is taking orders for ‘a button with your face on it’, so that wearers of masks can be readily identified by their smiling face pin on their lapel. Scott is learning about photography as he takes photos, customer service as he takes orders, and production skills as he makes the buttons. Scott is already an expert in financial management, having completed certification in SAGE Accounting systems a few months ago.

This work experience provides Scott with good professional development. Whether he finds work as a bookkeeper or sets up his own business, these mentored experiences will have been worthwhile.

We can’t wait to see what our additional BYOB candidates will come up with, when they all gather for their training in January!


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Organization Information

Open Sky Co-operative Ltd.

Location: Sackville, NB - Canada
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @openskycoop
Project Leader:
Laura Hunter
Sackville, NB Canada

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