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This success story recipient got funding because they took the first step and contacted our Centre to learn about their funding options. Although we cannot guarantee you will get funding, the more you know about others experiences the better your chances.

SK Restaurateur gets $106,600 in Business Funding to Launch International Cooking School

Saskatchewan restaurateur receives $106,600 to launch international cooking school.
Food & Beverage
Maple Creek, Saskatchewan

Government Business Funding Helps School be in Session

Tina Cresswell is the owner and CEO of The Star Café & Grill, a favourite amongst the locals in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. As a true labour of love, her partners have refurbished the historic 19th century building as a sort of tribute to the history and people of the town, hoping to offer them the best service, food, and experience.

She credits much of the restaurant's personality to Philippine Head Chef Noy Lim, whom she says brings a huge amount of ability, talent, and drive. Coupled with a sous-chef trained at the University of Mississippi, there's bound to be an eclectic mix of training, experience, and sensibilities.

She adds that both chefs are natural teachers, evident by the success of their recent 'chef camp,' and the fact that they've had to train each and every person to come through their kitchen doors due to a lack of skilled labour in Southwest Saskatchewan. This was the impetus that caused her to set her sights higher to "meet a need in the industry, and also use our people’s talent to the fullest."

Cresswell plans to broaden the scope of' The Star' on an international scale by developing a professional cooking school -- the aptly named "Etoile Culinary Arts International." With business funding made possible through the Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (an organization that provides information, consultation, and networking services for female residents of Saskatchewan), the school will be an accredited, government-run program affiliated with the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST.)

Getting the Government Business Funding needed to Cook Up Success

After contacting the Centre for Small Business Financing (CFSBF), she was made aware of the Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan, whom she calls "a tremendous resource." After buying out the shares of a third partner to meet the business funding criteria of 51% ownership, Cresswell spoke of the program's additional eligibility requirements.

"The company has to be in good financial health, there has to be absolutely no government or tax debt. We had to have a good business plan that was rationalized properly, and all of the various negative factors had to be mitigated or have a plan for mitigation. So, yeah -- it took us a long time to get all of that done."

As one can imagine, starting a school doesn't happen overnight. Cresswell admits it was nearly two years in the making, with research into government requirements, as well as curriculum and apprenticeship program approval through Advanced Ed (AEEI - Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration.)

Half of their $106,600 start up business funding was dedicated to substantial kitchen renovations and equipment, with the remainder going towards legal fees, accounting, and start up business costs. Despite the setback of flooding in the area, and resulting damages to the building's foundation in excess of $50,000, the renovations have continued. With two other buildings available on the main street, they've also entered into the planning process for a residence, but know that's probably unlikely for their first year of programming.

With marketing efforts to attract students from the Philippines and Peru (and a 2-month lag-time for international student visas) paperwork has become a necessary evil. Nevertheless, they hope to open the school with twenty international and local students and have already been approached by several companies offering sponsorships and scholarships for Saskatchewan students.

Her parting advice for new business start ups and entrepreneurs? A 'crystalized' business plan.

"The first thing you have to do is write a good, honest, serious business plan -- and that doesn't mean dress it up, make it what you want it to be. That means do your homework. And go to an organization like the Women Entrepreneurs to get some help. Because I've written business plans where I wanted the business to succeed when it wasn't necessarily the right time or the right place, and those businesses have not succeeded. You need to write a good, honest plan. Take a good honest look at your market, take a good honest look at your funding, and be truthful with it."


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