Mentoring Success, One Business Plan at a Time

The YMCA's Carla Kendall combines a keen business acumen and strong leadership to inspire budding entrepreneurs.

Mentoring Success, One Business Plan at a Time

We’d all love to be our own boss. It can be hard to get a job in uncertain economic times, so making your own work is often a better choice. But it is so much easier to with an experienced mentor.

Carla Kendall, director of the YMCA’s Self-Employment Development Program, loves mentoring new entrepreneurial talent. She admires the drive of the people who have attended the program because of their “sheer determination, fortitude and persistence” in making their own livelihood.

Carla came to Canada as a university student from Trinidad and Tobago and went on to have an 18-year career at one of Canada’s leading retail banks. She then used her experience to foster financial independence in the clients of Calmeadow, a Canadian non-for-profit that promotes microfinance and character-based lending. For over a decade she has been the director of the SED program. She has found that the YMCA is particularly well suited to deliver the program.

“Here we promote the dignity and worth of each person,” she said. “Inclusiveness is truly at the heart of the YMCA experience.”

The program consists of two months of intensive business training where each individual creates a business plan. For the next 12 months the newly minted entrepreneurs are given ongoing support and networking opportunities.

A true mentor, Carla stays in touch with participants long after the formal program ends, offering encouragement and advice. She has stayed in touch with some individuals for nearly a decade after they have enrolled in the course, and uses her ever-expanding network of entrepreneurs as sources of information as well as to provide volunteer opportunities for the latest recruits.

To date, a thousand people have enrolled in the program, and 80 percent have completed it.

“The ideal candidate is passionate about the business, competent and committed, with the necessary business and personal skills,” Carla said.

They also need to have a hunger “to absorb shared information and resources.”

She is philosophical about those who do not succeed, noting life can present its own challenges.

“The definition of success is fluid,” Carla said.  “Life with its unexpected events and situations can temporarily change a person’s priorities.”

Nothing inspires Carla more than watching the transformation of participants as they gain confidence to become their own bosses and she compares it to a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly.

“It is extremely gratifying to witness the entrepreneurs at the start of the program, being ready to soar after presenting their business plans,” she said.

Action Items:

  1. Support local businesses and entrepreneurs in your area.
  1. Learn more about the YMCA’s Self-Employment Development Program at
  1. Mentor someone.
Theresa Spohn

Theresa Spohn

Theresa Spohn is a Toronto-based multimedia journalist specializing in stories about progressive change, social issues and human development.
Theresa Spohn

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