For the past decade and a bit, Big Valley’s Vivian Hulley has sat on the Community Futures East Parkland board, spending the last few years as director.
The organization is a “lot like Dragon’s Den,” Hulley said, except that members of the board don’t have to spend their own money to help people with projects, instead drawing on funds granted by the federal government.
Hulley said the not-for-profit organization is often a “lender of last resort,” helping small businesses or start-ups that have been turned down by banks, in addition to providing business advice and training.
“Many times these businesses just don’t meet the bank’s criteria,” Hulley explained, adding that banks are leery of loaning money to artistic ventures. “Some of these companies we help, after they’ve proven themselves for a few years, are able to get support from a bank, which buys out our loan.”
The collateral and interest rates offered by Community Futures is a bit higher than that of a bank, Hulley said, but the group prides itself on choosing its investments carefully.
“We don’t want to set someone up with a loan to fail,” she said.
She would know; Hulley and her husband, who passed away in the years before she joined the board, had taken a mortgage with Community Futures, she said. They ran a shop on the Jimmy Jock Boardwalk in Big Valley, where they sold art and baking.
“After my husband died, I finished paying off the mortgage,” Hulley said. “You can’t be on the board if you have a mortgage with Community Futures.”
She was invited to join, and said the experience has been a wonderful one.
“I was the more compassionate one,” she said with a laugh, likening the experience again to Dragon’s Den. She said there were all sorts of people on the board, from those who jump in with both feet first, to those more like her, that look on and are more cautious and long-thinking.
To honour Hulley and her 11 years of service, the board awarded her $100 for each year, to be donated to causes in her community of Big Valley. The Big Valley Library received $300, as did the community art program. The Big Valley Historical Society received $500 to put toward the refurbishing of St. Edmund’s Church.
As for Hulley, who is now freed from the duties and responsibilities of the board, life is busier than ever. Even though she sold her boardwalk business four years ago, she now runs an art gallery and gift shop from her home and brings her art and baking to farmers’ markets around central Alberta.
“I work harder than ever before,” she said with a laugh.