Amber Hayes is a very active part of the Kootenay business scene and has been named one of 2014’s Influential Women in Business
Amber Hayes has a lot on her business plate. She’s program manager with the Basin Business Advisors Program and does business coaching with the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST). On top of all that Hayes describes herself as a serial entrepreneur and has had/currently has a number of businesses. Her latest venture, C3PrO, was started with two other co-founders. The company operates as a community contribution corporation (C3). This is a new type of company structure in British Columbia that mandates a donation of 60 per cent of profit dividends back to a community. With an abundance of experience, Hayes had lots to say to Kootenay Business regarding her Influential Women in Business award win in the West Kootenay.
Tell me about C3PrO.
The type of programming that we’re doing is we are launching a crowd-funding program that will support local communities and fundraising as well as startups and fundraising. Our new main platform, Basin Crowdsource, will provide fundraising options and access to local expertise. The other piece that we provide is we’re bringing together expertise within the Basin region, using the Basin as a pilot area, because there are a lot of highly skilled individuals that live in this area that often work outside of the area, but still have the ability to work with locals. So we’re promoting that as a 100-mile contractor diet. We want to help change how organizations start and grow while supporting local talent. I would invite any of my expertise colleagues out there to contact us to be included.
Why do you think you were considered for the Influential Women in Business award?
I think the nature of the type of work that I do is inherent in supporting a lot of other businesses. I also do a lot of instruction around small business programs and social media and certainly provide a lot of pro bono support, if you will, to different groups and events that are business related, like being a judge at the Selkirk Business students competition.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
I think, first, the opportunity to innovate. At heart I’m an innovation specialist/junkie. Certainly in the work I do now, the opportunity to interact and support the growth of businesses in the region. I think it’s critical to the economic development here. And just knowing that I’m a part of mechanisms that help support those businesses is a huge positive in the work that I do.
Can you tell me about how you’ve been personally influenced in business?
I would have to say certainly the mentors that I have. I stress that to other businesses. Some of the more successful people that I know continue to have mentors who share their learning and provide that environment of being supportive.
What advice would you have for a woman who is working towards becoming a business owner?
I would say first of all not to go it alone. There’s often a perception that we need to get to a certain stage before we reach out to ask for assistance or insight. I would say right from the get-go to approach the organizations that are here in the region, or other women who have been successful in business and ask for pointers from them. (Also), sometimes in business we have a tendency to be what I describe as blinded by passion in regard to our business idea. It’s important to spend some time right up front to ensure that, while you love the idea, the idea is actually going to be valid for you, for your goals and for its own purposes. There are great tools and great programs out there, like the KAST and the BBAs (Basin Business Advisors), that can help with that.
What are you looking forward to with the future?
As I’ve matured as an entrepreneur what I look forward to now is continuing to grow the programs that I’m working on. I love program development, so engaging in that, certainly in the role that I have with the Basin Business Advisors. And with an organization like C3PrO I’m very, very excited for the opportunity for organizations to legitimately become more socially innovative and to contribute more to the communities that they’re served by and for. I think as we move forward in the future we’ll see more of these types of models and hopefully growing acceptance of innovation. I have a technology background and an innovation background and I just see the next years as being incredibly exciting in regards to opportunities and changing the way we do business.