YWCA Hamilton’s PowerUp Program empowers mother-daughter duo to run social enterprise that removes barriers of employment for disabled youth

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YWCA Hamilton’s PowerUp Program empowers activist social enterprise

As the Executive Directive of GoodOnU.ca, a social enterprise that advocates ending disability discrimination, Sherry Caldwell is passionate about removing employment barriers against disabled youth.

“Disabled youth have many barriers to employment; I realized I had to create employment for my daughter,” Sherry shares. “My daughter needs support to be employed as she is non-verbal.” With that came the idea of starting her enterprise, where her daughter could manage digital marketing and design merchandise.

Founded on the principles of accessibility and inclusion, Sherry wanted to build an enterprise that offered chic merchandise that promoted and advocated for different social issues like housing, disability, human rights, and more.

Starting just at the onset of the pandemic, Sherry realized that she needed more tools and technical knowledge to expand her business to its potential. That is when she came across YWCA Hamilton’s PowerUp program and enrolled.

YWCA Hamilton’s PowerUp Business program is offered through the Milli Gould Entrepreneurial Centre. This free, 10-week program focuses on creating a business plan, building resilience, marketing, finance, operations and legal, and offering lectures from trained business advisors and industry experts.

Sherry’s cohort ran virtually during the pandemic. She found that the program helped her form a strategic plan that catered to the enterprise’s needs and vision. “The staff particularly were encouraging and helped me with market research,” she added.

Particularly, she found the one-on-one coaching by an industry professional to be the most helpful. The coaching helped her refine the enterprise’s message, recognize the blooming market for the products, and helped her to pitch her business to investors and target demographic.

“Making a business plan is tough, but following through with that plan is tougher,” she laughed.

A big challenge for her enterprise was transitioning from being present virtually to making a physical presence within the community. The PowerUp program was helpful here as the program provides training and opportunities for networking within local communities and making your business known. Sherry shares that Brigitte Huard, one of the Business Advisors at YWCA Hamilton – Milli Gould Entrepreneurial Centre, has consistently been in touch and invites Sherry to promote her enterprise at various community events. This exposure has encouraged Sherry to venture into new space – last week she was present at Friends4Kindness – Unbirthday Party with a pop up sale. “Connecting with people within community is great as it helps us to build lasting relationships and people can physically access our products,” she commented. The move into a physical space has also challenged her to add new merchandise to her inventory and figure out logistics for pop up sales.

Using the program opened up a new avenue for Sherry as she embarked on building GoodOnU.ca. “The staff helped me throughout the process and followed up with me,” she remarked.

The impact of the PowerUp program is made possible thanks to support from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the Allen and Milli Gould Family Foundation.

To learn more about our PowerUp Program and other programs offered through the Milli Gould Entrepreneurial Centre, visit our website at www.ywcahamilton.org/milli-gould-centre/

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