With thanks to the Gabriola Sounder for printing this announcement in the April 19, 2023 edition.

The Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce is pleased, excited and honoured to have been awarded $100,000 for our Island MBA program from B.C.’s newest economic diversification funding, the Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program (REDIP), which promotes economic diversification, clean economy opportunities and infrastructure development in rural B.C.

The Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce exists to support our island economy, business and tourism community, and local residents, and create shared prosperity in a sustainable way. Our mission is to develop a robust island economy that thrives within the culture Gabriolans cherish, reflective of and responsible to the residents of Electoral Area B. We also exist within a network of islands that share our unique challenges and opportunities and who are eager to collaborate and learn from and alongside one another. 

In 2022, the Chamber developed a strategic plan and implemented new operational systems as foundational pieces for building its capacity to support Gabriola economic development. One of our key objectives for this year is to focus on local business & enterprise development and capacity building, 

One way we envision building local business capacity is through the Gabriola Island MBA program, or for short, the Island MBA. This acronym is short for Islanders Managing their own Business Acumen and we see this program as being Island powered and Island empowered. 

The Island MBA is a way to expand economic capacity, enhance diversification, and build resilience for Gabriola, as well as potentially be a pilot program that could be expanded to positively impact other rural islands and small communities. 

At the Chamber, we hear that our local business and non-profit organization leaders would appreciate and benefit from ongoing professional development, but 

  • don’t have the time or capacity to be away from their business or work
  • don’t have the time and/or resources to implement the learnings; and/or 
  • can’t find learning/upskilling opportunities that are relevant to our unique island context. 

We also see the importance of island businesses and organizations having a stronger digital foundation and presence that is essential to attracting and retaining customers today but being unable to do so for many of the reasons listed above.

We know a number of highly respected regional and community organizations (Community Futures, VIU, RIEP, to name a few) have great programs and services and we would like to access and leverage their existing expertise, systems, programs and resources to address local business and non-profit needs and gaps.

The Island MBA will prepare emerging entrepreneurs and upskill existing business owners and non-profit board and staff representatives to be knowledgeable, resilient and responsive in ways that are relevant to doing business in rural tourism communities. We include non-profit associations as they are often essential providers of services to an island community, services that are in themselves ‘businesses’ and require many of the same skills that require fostering through the MBA. 

The REDIP funding we received, will allow the Chamber to begin phase 1 of a 2 phase plan. Phase 1 will be the creation of a feasibility study, business plan, program design, service planning to:

  • Identify business and tourism assets and gaps to create a current inventory
  • Assess our community’s business and tourism skills and acumen
  • Assess the digital needs and gaps of our local business, non-profit and artisan communities 
  • Engage with external (regional and local) partners to identify existing economic and tourism development services and resources
  • Identify local and regional experts in each of the topic areas
  • Design draft curriculums for different levels of business and digital skills and acumen 
  • Create an implementation strategy and budget for program delivery, 
  • Work with our partners to ensure this can be easily replicated by other rural communities by creating templates and processes and
  • Establish key performance indicators (KPI’s) to measure success.

and ensure the program, services and tools are designed and implemented with diversity, inclusion and reconciliation as essential and foundational project pillars.

We will need additional funding to implement the Island MBA program, which we hope to access through a next round of REDIP funding later this year. Phase 2 will be program implementation, where we will:

  • Conduct intake and initial consultations for local businesses
  • Design and deliver programs that match the needs of our community
  • Facilitate ongoing networking, connection, and mentorship opportunities
  • Work with our regional partners to offer this to all the Islands and
  • Track progress and report on successes and challenges.

An intake and initial consultation will help us identify relevant learning levels in topics including business and strategic planning, financial literacy, sales and marketing, communication, tourism skills, leadership and management, human resources training, operations and administrative systems, risk management. 

Program delivery will be a blend of in-person, live online, and on-demand to match the capacity and needs of business owners. Program design will be inclusive of all sectors on rural islands, and be applicable to farmers, artists, hospitality providers, bodyworkers, cafe owners, consultants, tradespeople, retailers, non-profits and everyone in between. We’ll offer content that addresses and is appropriate for rural business owners by hiring local experts who have found success in this unique context, often drawing from experiences beyond. Program participants will be able to choose the skills they need, when they need it. Real time solutions for real work issues.

In addition, a strong digital foundation is an essential component for each of these businesses and non-profits. By assessing the needs of each business and organization and hiring local creatives to develop or refresh essential assets like logo and branding and digital specialists to build basic online presence, we can uplevel and build capacity for individuals as well as our island economy and tourism appeal. Program participants would receive a combination of done-for-you, done-with-you, and skill development for ongoing DIY to ensure adoption and continued success of digital integration.

When implemented, the Island MBA umbrella will provide accessible and appropriate professional development through an offering of Island relevant business services, training and workshops and coaching. Businesses and non-profits would be offered support to reach a basic level of digital skills and presence and the program would be done with an emphasis on mentorship, partnership, and networking to cultivate a culture of continued collaboration. 

While we see the Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcy Islands business, tourism, arts and culture and agri-food sectors to be initially best and directly served by the program, our program design will be inclusive of and applicable to all sectors on rural islands. We are holding the vision of working with regional and local partners to this being a pilot program that could be replicated to positively impact and serve other rural islands and small communities. 

As a community organization, we see incredible potential for intra- and inter-island partnerships and collaboration that requires an investment in coordination and facilitation to be able to leverage existing resources and opportunities and enjoy mutual benefit and development.


The Island MBA will be created in potential partnership with a number of inter-island organizations. We have confirmed partnership and/or support from:

  • Community Futures Central Island (CFCI)
  • Vancouver Island University (VIU)
  • Rural Island Economic Partnership (RIEP)
  • Gabriola Arts Council (GAC)
  • Gabriola Museum and Historical Society (Museum)
  • Gabriola Island Community Investment Co-op (GICIC) and 
  • Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA)

 and will be in conversation with additional local organizations and other potential partners, such as:

  • Coastal Community Credit Union (CCCU) 
  • Island Coastal Economic Trust  (ICET)
  • Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA)
  • 4VI
  • BC Chamber of Commerce
  • Destination BC and
  • Small Business BC.

With our local know-how, support from these partners, and essential funding from the Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure (REDIP) and other grants, we can design, develop and deploy a unique program to uplevel small rural island businesses of all kinds, from artists to farmers and everyone in between and work with RIEP and other partners to offer this tool to all the Islands.

The Island MBA program will grow and expand collaboration by identifying and amplifying local businesses and non-profits, revealing and facilitating opportunities for partnerships, and coordinating and cultivating a skilled business and non-profit culture that aligns with island lifestyle, economy, and community.