July 25, 2008 - News

Giving people SEED of hope
Pam Rubachuk planted a seed this year she hopes will sprout into a post-secondary graduate in a couple of decades. The single mom running a day care out of her home happened upon a pamphlet for SEED Winnipeg, a non-profit community economic development agency. Not only has it changed her life, it has also helped her lay some financial groundwork for her 21-month-old son, Lucas. While taking SEED's business and money management courses, Rubachuk learned about the agency's My Child's Future program, which provides assistance in setting up registered education savings plans or applying for the Canada Education Savings Grant and the Canada Learning Bond. "It definitely gave me a lot of knowledge I didn't have. I opened up an RESP for my son and applied for the (CESG and CLB). I thought they were wonderful deals. There's nowhere else in the world I can get free money," she said.

Peer lending helps budding entrepreneurs
It sounds like a fledgling entrepreneur's dream come true. You need a small loan to start your business, but you have no credit rating or collateral with which to impress a bank. No problem. You can turn to peer lending. Your application will be weighed on the basis of your business plan and your personal character. And you'll join a lending circle of like-minded owners who offer ideas and encouragement. Peer lending, which has its origins in developing countries, is now a growing movement in Canada. A lending circle is a group of individuals supporting each other by meeting monthly to share business success stories, marketing strategies and business development ideas, while also encouraging each other to keep current with their loan payments. Vancouver City Savings Credit Union was one of the first Canadian credit unions to offer peer lending, starting in 1998. Until last year, Vancity's average annual portfolio of peer loans was about $100,000. But that grew to $150,000 in 2007 and is expected to reach $200,000 this year. "Our peer loans are one of a number of specialized loan products we offer to folks who traditionally find themselves 'under-banked' by other financial institutions," says Catherine Ludgate, manager of community business banking for Vancity. Vancity's peer loans usually start at $1,000 per borrower in a lending circle, or if the members of the circle are graduates of a self-employment program, then the loans start at $2,000.