Western, London 'Rise' up for vulnerable populations

By Communications Staff
October 17, 2013

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Through collaboration with Western’s Ivey Business School and multiple community agencies in London, Rise Asset Development (Rise) has launched a new avenue to economic independence through entrepreneurship for people with mental health or addiction challenges.

“Meaningful employment is an important pillar in a person’s well-being and identity; however, people with mental health issue or addictions often face barriers to the traditional job market,” said Dr. Anne Snowdon, chair, International Centre for Health Innovation at Ivey. ”This program improves the lives of this population, empowering them to become successful entrepreneurs through access to financing and business mentorship from the local business community and our business school alumni.”

At its heart, Rise, created by the Rotman School of Management and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in 2009, provides small-business loans and mentorship to individuals living with mental-health and addiction challenges who are interested in pursuing self-employment.

Rise uses four micro-financing programs to target specific audiences:

  • The Individual Lending Program allows an individual to access up to $25,000 in financing, with an average initial financing starting at $4,000;
  • The Youth Small Business Program targets individuals age 16-29 with a free course where participants develop entrepreneurship skills, while converting their idea into a viable business plan. Those who successfully complete the program may be eligible for $500 for start-up costs of their business as well as may be eligible to apply for Rise financing;
  • The Group Lending Program works with groups of three-six borrowers and connects them to business mentors and industry experts in the community. Rise also hosts monthly group sessions with the group members and mentor. Loans start between $300-$1,500, and then increase depending on the business need, repayment history and group consent; and
  • The Event Lending Program provides loans up to $1,000 to pay admission to at a convention or festival where the individual can showcase and sell their products/services. Entrepreneurs must use the sales from their event to immediately pay back their loan before covering any other costs.

The Rise London model was designed to meet the community’s specific needs. It was informed by an advisory group of senior leaders from several London-based agencies who provide social and employment services for youth and adults. Those agencies include WOTCH Community Mental Health Services, Goodwill Industries, United Way London & Middlesex, Sisters of St. Joseph, London Small Business Centre, Emerging Leaders, MindYourMind and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). These organizations will continue to shape the design and roll-out of the program in the coming months.

London is the third community to benefit from this innovative project; the program, founded in Toronto by philanthropist Sandra Rotman in 2009, already includes Rise Toronto and Ottawa.

“Rise has been instrumental in improving the lives of its clients by helping them start up, grow or re-start their entrepreneurial ventures. I’m delighted entrepreneurs in the London region facing employment problems as a result of mental health or addiction challenges will now be able to benefit from the mentoring and financial support provided by Rise,” Rotman said.

“The program and process of Rise has, at its foundation, the desire to create a more inclusive culture,” said Sister Margo Ritchie of the Sisters of St. Joseph. “It recognizes the gifts of people facing mental health challenges. Also, it is building on the tremendous work already being done by agencies and individuals in London and area. Social inclusion benefits all of us.”


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