“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
These are the words of a man whose philosophy fueled his personal journey from a Midwest farm boy to a legendary business magnate. Henry Ford believed in respect for employees and collaboration with colleagues, and his pioneering spirit left a legacy that transformed the automotive industry.
The Muskoka Community Futures Development Corporation, better known as ‘Muskoka Futures’, also believes in the power of people working together. With its ‘customer-first’ focus, Muskoka Futures removes roadblocks to success, rather than drowning in bureaucratic protocols. “We encourage anyone with a business question to just call us,” explains Executive Director David Brushey, “and we’ll try to find the right answers for them.”
David Brushey (Executive Director) has worn several hats in the public and private spheres. Having worked for municipal and provincial governments, as well as owning a small business, David has the experience that helps him shape solutions for others.
Tyler Lockhart (Investment Consultant) connects with the ambitions and goals of entrepreneurs. He draws on his prior banking background to provide people with the financing and counsel that they need to launch or advance their venture.
Jodi Chapman-Good (Program Coordinator) manages an innovative platform of programs that give business owners the momentum to take their dreams to the next level. With past employment in both small enterprises and large corporations, as well as self-employment, Jodi finds Muskoka Futures an ideal environment for her creative instincts.
Jennifer Goodfellow (Office Administrator) keeps the office running smoothly. She appreciates the chance to be engaged with the vibrant commercial community and to make a valuable contribution to the vitality of Muskoka.
The mandate of Muskoka Futures is to make the region strong by promoting economic growth and job creation. How do they do it? Through loans, consultations, skills development, mentoring, coaching, and more. “We get involved with our clients,” says David. “It’s all about relationship-building.” He knows that everyone at Futures, from the staff to the directors to the volunteers, are there because they care. “When our business people can realize their goals and attain success, the whole community benefits,” he observes. “We want to make sure that they have the tools they need in order to thrive.” To put it simply, Muskoka Futures introduces opportunities and then backs them up with solid support.
Financial Investment – As the coordinator of the Investment Program, Tyler invites people needing financial assistance to give him a call, meet for a discussion, and explore the possibilities. He can guide them to resources for writing a business plan and submitting a loan application; and, even if they don’t qualify for investment, he will recommend other options to pursue to help move their business forward. “Our commitment to customer service has made the process far quicker than in the past,” Tyler points out, “and we significantly increased our lending in 2017.” Whether it’s a new or existing operation, Muskoka Futures can tailor the solution to meet specific needs.
Building Momentum - Muskoka Futures has assembled a team of knowledgeable professionals who enjoy sharing their expertise through three Momentum programs. Candidates complete a self-assessment form and meet with Jodi, who will match them up with an appropriate one-on-one partner. Business owners who are just starting out, or who want to expand, are paired with a mentor for concentrated guidance. Advisors can provide informed suggestions for planning, financial management, or marketing tactics. And a network of bookkeepers will set up or improve your record-keeping systems.
2017 proved to be a year of significant change at Muskoka Futures. While the organization has always been open to fresh ideas, they realized there were steps they could take to provide greater benefits to Muskoka. There are a lot of new things on the go … and on the horizon!
They began with a step back in looking at themselves and recognizing that their brand could be more approachable. The new brand they created comes down to this basic message: “Call us! We will help you find the information and answers you are seeking.”
Customer service also received a renewed focus, with the realization that decisions on loans had to happen in a time frame that supported businesses. As a result, the loan approval process has been streamlined and approvals can be received in as little as 48 hours.
As well, the Business Support Program was rebranded as ‘Momentum’ to clearly indicate that Muskoka Futures’ services are there to help businesses move forward.
The ‘Idea Project’ was initiated in 2017 to bring people together and nurture a spirit of collaborative inspiration. It soon evolved into a powerful Think Tank, with thought leaders from within and beyond the community seeking inventive resolutions to difficult problems. “We want to bring in bigger brands, as well as local entrepreneurs, as ‘champions’ to drive change,” Jodi says. “It’s amazing how many constructive ideas can emerge out of a private-sector roundtable chat.”
‘Walk-in Wednesdays’ let people connect informally with the consultants. Once a month, four mentors and advisors are available at the Muskoka Futures office to offer the guidance and advice that help business owners and entrepreneurs form their strategies and test their theories.
After some debate about the merit of formal workshops, the staff at Muskoka Futures looked for a better way to share skills and knowledge. “We came to believe that most people preferred a more direct way to discuss their challenges,” Jodi says, “so we created ‘Talk Tuesdays’ for casual conversations about common concerns.” Topics such as staff retention, marketing methods, and succession planning are fielded by the mentors and advisors at Muskoka Futures.
Plans for 2018 include a partnership with ‘The Hub’ in Huntsville to extend Muskoka Futures’ accessibility to those in the northern part of the region. Representatives will be there to offer individual support a couple of days a week; and dates will be set for the Talk Tuesdays and Walk-in Wednesdays sessions.
All of this change led to dramatic results in 2018. Investment in local business saw a level of just over $3,000,000 by Muskoka Futures, which leveraged in excess of $9,000,000 from other financial sources. These investments, as well as the advice and mentoring programs provided by Muskoka Futures, helped more than 250 businesses create or maintain over 150 jobs.
“We’re always happy to hear from anyone who wants to learn about how we can help them move their business forward, or who would like to join our team as a Board member, mentor, or advisor,” says David. “We’re very excited about our new direction and how it will benefit Muskoka, and we welcome the community to be part of it.”
Back a couple of centuries ago, the English poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge decreed that “Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm”. This timeless statement is certainly borne out by the people at Muskoka Futures … and by those who have gotten to know them.
Visit www.muskokafutures.ca, follow them on social media, or drop in to their office to find out more about their current events and programming. In short, to paraphrase another great mind, “be the change that you wish to see”.