The SEA Self Employment Assistance Plan – 6 SEA Vendors at South Stormont Chamber of Commerce Home & Trade Show – May 3, 2011 by Reg Coffey

Comput-e-able - Coffey’s Coffee - Sue McConville & Assoc.

Ingleside ON – As an introduction to my report on the Self Employment Assistance program I thought I would report on the South Stormont Chamber of Commerce Home and Trade show and the number of SEA graduates who participated in the event as vendors.

Of the 48 vendors that were there I counted 6 that were graduates of the program as are shown in the pictures.


Clean Streak


There is a little known provincial government program that helps new entrepreneurs start up a business. It is called the Self Employment Assistance program, or SEA, and it is run out of St. Lawrence College in Cornwall.
Truly Impressed Gifts
Basically, qualified individuals can receive free business start-up training and receive a living allowance for the duration of the program. If you follow this link you can find more details about the program.   LINK 

Sweet Indulgences


The program is efficiently run under Deborah MacKay, the VP of Academic Operations for St. Lawrence College through a contract awarded by the Ministry of Training, Colleagues, and Universities.  This program is funded by the Ontario government. Also, you may qualify for the program if you are currently on EI, or have been on EI within the last 36 months or on parental leave within the last 60 months.

However there are a few hoops you have to jump through before you are accepted into the program. First step would be to call Carla Kingston, the program coordinator at 613-933-6080 #2246. Carla does just about everything except bake cookies. There is usually someone in the current batch of clients that does that.
Carla will refer you to either JobZone in Cornwall or Glengarry Liaison in Alexandria where a counsellor will determine if you are qualified to enter the program. The next step is for you to present your business concept to an advisory board of local business people and they will either reject your idea or recommend to the MTCU (Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities) that you be accepted into the program. I suppose by now you realize that I am a graduate of this program as well and my business, Coffey’s Coffee, is the end product.
. I could go into all the details of the program but then, as a potential entrepreneur, you should be able to find those out for yourself by following the information I have already given you. This is a very successful program and well worth the effort to research. I’m sure that Carla will tell you that from 1999 to date, there have been 457 business start-ups that have generated 97 other employment opportunities.
The success rate of SEA program business start-ups far surpasses the Canadian average for new businesses.
When I started researching for this article in late March, the current classroom cycle of training was just finishing and 9 new businesses were just embarking on the mentoring phase of the program. The businesses ranged from hair dressing, business management, computer consulting, sushi catering to gadgetry sales. The current in-class training cycle began on Monday and the next one won’t be until September 12th this year. I’m thinking there may be a few former Startek employees who should be considering this.
I did manage to interview four of the most current graduates to get their impressions of the program.
Sue McConville & Associates
My first victim was Sue McConville. Her business is management consulting in  the areas of employee development, hiring strategies, organizational learning and employee development.
She has a public workshop scheduled for the end of May.
I asked Sue about how she heard about it and her experiences in the program.  She said “I heard about the SEA program from a friend, your wife.” …..Oh Yeah, I forgot.   Sue also said that the classroom portion of the program gave her confidence in areas that she had little experience in such as Marketing and Business Financials.
She foundthe interactive aspects of the classroom very helpful because you were even learning from the other participants as they worked through their issues with their business plans. Overall Sue found the program provided her with valuable practical experienced knowledge that would otherwise have been hard learned.


Ted Marsolais – Unique Gift Finder – 613-405-0564

. Also know as the Gadget Guy, Ted deals in unique gift ideas for men. Some of the items that Ted has includes pro logo toasters, motorized beer coolers and a golf club weed wacker. You get the idea. He does have some items in stock right now but he is building his inventory and trying to source products that will be unique to his company.

.Ted plans to market his products through trade shows and flea markets but he will source specific items for you. He is currently working on a web site but you can call him at the phone number above or email him at .

.Ted found out about the SEA program on-line through the St. Lawrence College website. He was directed to JobZone in Cornwall and had no problem being accepted into the program. Ted found the process of developing a Business Plan to be very helpful, in particular the research and marketing aspects of it.

Helen Huang – Truly Impressed Gifts –

Helen finished the 8 week classroom portion of the program on November 5th last year. Her business is to imprint images on personal gifts such as mugs, key chains, mousepads, t-shirts, etc. I bought a dozen mouse pads with my business cards printed on them from her. She does a great job.

Helen is new to Canada so she found that the program was very helpful in showing her how to start a business here. She said that she might not have opened a business without the program. The most important part of the program for Helen was the marketing information and the interaction with her fellow entrepreneurs.

Steve Walsh + Associates – 613-535-2068

. The last of my interviewees was Steve Walsh. Steve calls himself a “Cloud Computing Consultant”. He spent quite a while with me trying to explain what Cloud Computing was and I understood it at the time. However, it is a month later and my notes don’t make a lot of sense now. It appears that it is a social and marketing paradigm where you can use applications and services over the internet on a pay as you go basis. I hope I got that right Steve. I may have to take a course from you to fully grasp it. Do you teach seniors?

Steve said that in his opinion the most important part of the program was the focus on building a business plan. He said “until you’ve done one you don’t realize how critical it is” and it “allows you to peer into the heart of a business.”

He also believes that the classroom environment encouraged networking and making connections with the other participants. It also gave him a view of different business models. One of the more uncomfortable aspects of the program was designing and conducting the required customer survey but it also was a valuable experience that provided important information.

Coffey's Coffee


  1. As a graduate of the SEA Program myself, I think that what they (Carla) does is fantastic. The SEA Program assists new entrepreneurs by providing them with skills to facilitate starting their own business. Not to mention the personal support that Carla provides to each and every individual who walks through the door. It has been five years since I graduated and one of the reasons why my dream has been realized is because of the SEA Program. Finally a government program that assists people to stand on their own two feet. Keep up the good work!

  2. Apparently there was some room for misunderstanding when I used the phrase “the boss that the students see everyday”. It was not my intention to mislead or misinform anyone. I have corrected the text above and inserted a more factual description of the hierarchy of the SEA program.

  3. I applied for the program and was denied. Reason i was given was over qualified as i didnt fail enough employment options (not fired enough). I was told they were looking for employees who are unable to find a permanent job or start a business for themselves. Because i am able to find a low paying (min wage) job and self educated myself in the start up of my business i didn’t qualify. I have now had a successful store open for over a year that pays for me and my family to live comfortably and would love to hear a story of a business that is successful from this program and by successful i mean turns a yearly profit that can sustain a family. Program is to help non employable people and not a potentially successful business. Obviously not what Cornwall needs right now

  4. I am in the current intake of the program, and I don’t believe in what you are saying PHILink TATTOOz:

    “Program is to help non employable people and not a potentially successful business. Obviously not what Cornwall needs right now”

    I’m thinking by “program” you mean the SEA program… anyway, I know in my case, I had just graduated college in May with a diploma in Computer Networking & Technical Support (With Distinction) from St. Lawrence College in Kingston, ON, and when I went to look in the job market for a place for me to start my 4th career… no one was hiring computer technicians, so I was SOL (Sorry, Out of Luck), so with working with a very knowledgeable employment consultant at JobZone D’Emploi, we came across the SEA Program, and gave it a chance. I’m happy to say, it worked out for me, and right now, I am having a great learning experience learning how to take something I have always did as a hobby, recently graduated with a diploma showing I can do the job, and make it into a positive business venture. I’m sorry you were not able to enter the SEA program, but if this program has been around since the late 1980’s here in the Cornwall area… obviously there is some need for it.

    PS: Reg, I really enjoy your coffee. and what a wonderful article you wrote.

  5. Thank you Pete and the best of luck in your business. I try to help out fellow graduates as much as I can.

  6. Coffey’s Coffee is available, freshly roasted, at Internet Cafe (Island Ink-Jet) 8 Third Street West, Cornwall. We also stock Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee roasted by Reg Coffey.

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