Working hard to grow a business isn’t easy, says Edmonton-area entrepreneur Chantelle Scott, but a basic income policy would make life a little less stressful in the first few challenging years.
Scott, inspired by Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson’s support for basic income, is realizing how beneficial such a social policy would be for those people who are trying to carve out a job for themselves.
“Many people assume that if someone owns a small business, they are doing quite well for themselves,” she says. “They don’t realize that every cent you had went into the creation of that store.”
A common definition of a basic income guarantee ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status. It involves a regular, reliable distribution of money from government to people to help ensure total income sufficient to meet common, basic needs.
Scott owns Nevaeh, a retail store in the hamlet of Sherwood Park, on the east side of Edmonton. The store is focused on spiritual supplies for all faiths, such as healing stones, herbs for incenses, teas, and rubs. She also does local consignment for other Sherwood Park entrepreneurs so they too, have an opportunity to sell product within a store front.
Two years ago, Scott was still working for a video duplication and editing company field, where she had been for 10 years. When the company lost its largest contract, she was told her job was going to be eliminated. She looked for many jobs, both in her area of expertise and in connected fields, but had no luck. With her passion for new age spiritual dimensions, she launched Nevaeh, given there was no similar business in Sherwood Park.
“People say the first year is the hardest but that is not so,” says Scott. “The first year, you have savings. Your credit is reasonable and if you are lucky you have Employment Insurance (EI) during the set up and promotion phase,” she explains.
In year two, she notes, sales increase but the extra money is gone, so there is less replenishment of inventory when items sell. “The second year is the true struggle because you hit the dreaded stage of paying expenses on the credit line and the credit card.”
Scott says she would have preferred to have been able to take some business courses and learn more before jumping into opening a store – but she couldn’t afford to wait.
“There is pressure when you are on EI or Alberta Works, and there is fear. The programs inhibit job growth because you always know you will lose most of the support if you find a job, and if it is a bad job you are stuck,” says Scott.
She notes there is no one or no place to help someone find the “right job,” nor is there opportunity to rest after leaving a very stressful job.
“You have seven months to figure out your life and it starts immediately – but you also have six to eight weeks of no benefits, so you need to already use up your savings before anything has even begun.”
Scott says that a basic income (also called a guaranteed annual income) would help entrepreneurs survive. “A guaranteed income would allow me to pay bills, buy food and be able to pay down the start-up costs of the business, which would eventually allow me to be able to extend my hours sooner, attend more trade fairs and markets, and hire staff.”
Scott says that many people believe that any form of guaranteed income will encourage laziness, or will put an end to small business.
“That is not the case. Guaranteed income allows people who cannot get jobs to create their own. It allows disabled people who are unable to get pensions to do home-based businesses and still survive. It allows single people who do not benefit from child tax credits or pension splitting to have enough money for food and essentials…to afford a better life,” she says.
Scott says that if people have a guaranteed income, then they will choose to spend more. “They have a higher standard of living, they eat better, and they are healthier both physically and mentally.”
While acknowledging that some may take advantage of such a social program, she says she has to believe that “the tip of the iceberg” would be more like her own story. “Average, normal, educated people who have trouble gaining employment, not because they have no education or work ethic,” but for more intangible reasons, like competition, or too much or too little experience.
If an entrepreneur is given the opportunity to survive early on, it is not only a boon to them, but to the larger economy, she says.
“A guaranteed income policy would allow so many to live their dreams and to truly contribute to society.”