Success stories

Success Stories

Community Futures is pleased to showcase some of the many good news stories in rural Alberta. Everyday we help people like you start and grow successful small businesses.

Coffee, Art and Music

Eugene and Betty Jean Cleland
Medicine Hat, AB

Imagine how interesting you could make a camping trip if you could make an espresso for your friends. That’s just the kind of guy Eugene Cleland is – he was the one who brought along his espresso machine to camp. For Eugene, making coffee is an art, from the choosing of the roast, to the making of the shot, the careful steaming of the milk, and finally, the art he creates with the foam. It is common for friends and family to gather at his home for a great coffee – many have told him he should open his own coffee shop. After much dreaming and consideration, that’s exactly what he did.

Eugene and his wife, Betty Jean, began the journey to entrepreneurship in 2016 when they enrolled for the Community Futures Entre-Corp Self Employment program. During that training, they had time to learn about business ownership, tackle the challenges in understanding business, develop their ideas, and create a viable business plan which would allow them to turn their passion into reality.

A year or so later, they are the proud owners of Medicine Hat’s newest coffeehouse, Café Verve

Eugene and Betty Jean have carefully planned their space for live music and to support local artists on their gallery style walls. There is usually live music every Friday night. Local art continually changes and adorns their walls. Café Verve has already hosted many musicians and artists since they opened their doors May 5, 2017. They employ 4 full-time staff and 6 part-time staff.   

They invite you to visit and enjoy the great service!

Eugene and Betty Jean both shared that they are so thankful for their wonderful staff who work with them to make the cafe a reality - they emphasized that they could not have come this far without them.

Story by Elizabeth Blair


Inspire Studio, Gallery & Café

Maureen Newton, Louise Vernal
Medicine Hat, AB

Meet Maureen Newton and Louise Vernal, sisters, born and raised in Medicine Hat. Maureen is the sole-proprietor of Inspire Studio & Gallery and co-owners of Inspire Café. Together they have created a beautiful business idea: Inspire Studio, Gallery & Café, located in sunny Medicine Hat, right at the busy corner of 2nd Street S.E.  I describe it as a delight to the senses: look, feel, taste, smell and even sound are all available when you visit here.

Maureen started planning the business in January 2008 and officially opened the doors of Inspire Studio & Gallery in July of that same year. She made the decision to also partner with her sister Louise to create an extension of the business and together they created Inspire Café. This extension to the business was finalized three years later and the café was open for business in February 2011.

Maureen worked in the art industry for her entire adult life and after returning to Medicine Hat, she decided that a studio and gallery would be a great business concept for Medicine Hat. “There was really nothing like this in Medicine Hat”, she says, and she was sure that it was a concept that would make their business unique and attractive in our community. “This is exactly the type of place I enjoyed visiting when I travelled and visited other cities”.

Maureen enrolled in the Community Futures Entre-Corp Self-Employment training program in 2008. Maureen describes what she found to be most valuable, “the training program was great for breaking down the process of how to begin a business and what the overall process of running a business would entail. The program played a vital part in helping us make connections to mentors and advisors who helped us along the way. The program also helped me to develop a solid business plan”. Soon after, Maureen participated in the Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge through Community Futures Entre-Corp and took home the first prize of $15,000. “These funds helped us build Inspire Studio.” Maureen was also able to access a renovation grant/loan program and start-up financing from Community Futures Entre-Corp which were used to renovate the shop and start the build-out of the café.  You can visit their website at:

Story by Elizabeth Blair

Flag Five Inc.

Melissa Chinski
Medicine Hat, AB

Melissa Chinski grew up in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, moved to Medicine Hat in 2002 and studied at the Medicine Hat College.  She obtained her degree in Visual Communications in 2005. The Visual Communications program provides students with an in-depth knowledge of design through courses like typography, drawing, marketing, video and applied design. Shortly after graduating, Melissa secured a position with the City of Medicine Hat, working as a graphic designer in the Communications Department.

Even with a full-time job, she was driven to entertain graphic design work after hours and on weekends with a plan to save enough to eventually open her own business.  Melissa obtained a business license in 2005. As she began to explore the possibility of running her own business full-time, she did an online search and found out about Community Futures Entre-Corp and how their services might be able to assist her with the questions she had about starting a business. After meeting with a Community Futures Entre-Corp business advisor, she was able to collect valuable information and resources to help in the process of putting together a proper business plan, which she admits would ultimately be the groundwork to help guide her through everyday operations.  Melissa shared how that visit with Community Futures Entre-Corp helped her understand how there was so much more to consider in running a business than just everyday client work.

12 years later, Melissa is enjoying a successful business with a store front and one full-time employee.  Her business is called Flag Five Inc. located in downtown Medicine Hat on 4th Ave.  Flag 5 has serviced a growing list of clientele, some of them, as far away as Boise, Idaho.  Melissa’s target market is medium-sized businesses who have an understanding of design and who want to market their business with a consistent and professional look.  Melissa explained how her number one principle at Flag Five is customer service. They strive to get to know clients businesses on a personal level, ensure each client feels like they are part of the team and that their goals are achieved.

Story by Elizabeth Blair


LimeLitez Dance Academy

Jerredi Cowan
Medicine Hat, AB

LimeLitez Dance Academy is the artistic conservatory of youth entrepreneur, Jerredi Cowan.  Lime Litez offers a variety of classes including ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and creative movement to performers of all ages.  Cowan has differentiated the academy through small and limited class sizes, superbly qualified instructors, and a suspended flooring system, which is designed specially for dancers and athletes.

At the young age of twenty, Cowan completed the Self-Employment Training Program at Entre-Corp in the winter of 2008.  Cowan describes the [training] program as an active foundation for her establishment’s progressive success.  “The training I received through SE is extremely valuable for all present activities, and will benefit future plans of the business.  Even more, the business plan I developed through SE will act as a constant support system, as it has already proven so through areas such as accurate financial forecasting and inventory management”, comments Cowan.  “With numerous expansion plans on the go, I need to constantly re-evaluate the entire business plan.  Without SE, I would not have knowledge of the proper [business plan] components, which need to be taken into consideration.”

Immediately following the Self Employment program, Entre-Corp further assisted Cowan through a $50 000 loan.  Cowan strongly believes that without the loan she received, the facility would not be the same.  Cowan went into detail of how everything from paint and décor, to furniture and inventory, was made possible from the loan.  “Being barely 20 years old with minor credit history, a bank most likely would not have taken me seriously.  I would not have been able to create the physical ambiance I envisioned for Lime Litez without the [Entre-Corp] loan.”

Accessible Accessories

Don Doonan
Medicine Hat, AB

Accessible Accessories Ltd.(AA) is an Application Service Provider (ASP), meaning it provides computer-based services to customers over a network. The interactive program has been designed to provide dealership customers and employees with the ability to look up “Dealer Specific” accessories and prices for any vehicle. This information can be accessed from any internet capable computer, without having to call Parts or Service departments for pricing.

Some of the features that Accessible Accessories offers in the software include accessory pictures, internal pricing, multiple user access rights, printable quotes including customer and vehicle information, user activity logs, parts and labour overrides, installation pricing incorporating up to 3 labour rates and shop supply charges, linked accessory websites to Dealership websites and the ability to add dealer specific custom accessories – such as paint and rust protection, under coatings, clothing etc.

Don has seen his clients increase their accessory sales as much as 500% when the dealership implements a solid process supporting the usage of the program by all employees.

Story by Elizabeth Blair

Pixedust Photography and Design

Agnes Guminy
Redcliff, AB

Co-owner of Pixeldust Photography and Design, Agnes Guminy, completed the Self-Employment Training program atCommunity Futures Entre-Corp in April of 2009.  This service-based small business located in Redcliff, AB is an incorporated partnership between Guminy and her daughter Jen, and offers its clients the duo’s expertise in photography, web and graphic design, and cinema and mixed media collaborations.

Aside from Guminy’s $16,000.00 personal capital investment into the business, CF Entre-Corp approved Pixeldust for a $50,000.00 loan in March of 2009, which would go towards general start-up costs including equipment and lease-hold improvements. Guminy also recognized the need for proper business training to further operations, which she received through the SE Program.  According to comments made by Guminy towards the training, she felt the program met her needs, beyond expectations.  In relation to the program facilitators, Guminy commented that overall, each seminar leader had thorough knowledge of the subject they were presenting, which enabled her to better understand essential business matters such as financials, marketing, and the overall business experience.  Furthermore, the program’s outsourced presenters including insurance specialists, accountants, and CRA representatives, were an essential part of the learning process, commented Guminy.

Since its inception, Pixeldust has reached a very large demographic, including a Facebook page with over 1200 fans and an interactive website. In May of 2009, tragedy struck the owners’ studio when most of their inventory was perished in a fire.  The team made a quick recovery and was able to continue providing assistance to their large market.  Special services the company offers is their recent implementation of modeling classes, where clients are able to enjoy an interactive setting, learning how to build self-confidence and esteem in front of the camera, while learning how to use lighting and pose effectively.  The last segment of the class includes a photo shoot for each client to contribute to their growing portfolio.  Moreover, Pixeldust offers web and graphic design and cinema and mix media services.

A highlight for the company last year was their contribution as the lead in the CFB Suffield Firefighters charitable calendar project, donating photography services to the campaign.  They also do the photography for the Terrific Kids program through the Kiwanis Club of Medicine Hat Gas City, and are working with the Medicine Hat College, providing photography needs towards rebuilding the website and corporate branding.


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Community Futures Entre-Corp
202 - 556 4th Street SE
Medicine Hat, AB T1A 0K8


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Communities Served

Bow Island, 
Medicine Hat, 
Red Cliff, 
Rolling Hills, 
Seven Persons, 


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