Social Ventures winner puts $5,000 prize toward new round of skills training 

Renee McNeil looks to get training off the ground

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - PIECE OF THE PIE  Renee McNeil (right) owner of The Pie Company, with staff member Edna Peters. McNeill won the Social Ventures challenge with her Cutting Barriers program to offer hands-on training and work experience that helps connect workers to employment opportunities.
  • Photo submitted
  • PIECE OF THE PIE Renee McNeil (right) owner of The Pie Company, with staff member Edna Peters. McNeill won the Social Ventures challenge with her Cutting Barriers program to offer hands-on training and work experience that helps connect workers to employment opportunities.

Renee McNeil's Cutting Barriers pitch won the $5,000 Social Ventures competition on June 29 and for The Pie Company owner, the experience exemplified what it's like to be part of such a vibrant community.

"The Social Ventures competition had such a great group of people — I was kind of onboard for the ride," she said. "So when I won it, I was pleasantly surprised."

McNeil's Cutting Barriers program will train workers — particularly for the kitchen and food-services industry, which is in need of trained staff in Whistler — then put them in touch with prospective employers.

"I've already talked to a couple of employers in town who are interested in coming on board and helping me out," McNeil said. "I'm also in talks with a couple of training providers from that end, so it's kind of a community thing. They're definitely happy to pitch in and make this successful."

McNeil has been working with Squamish's Helping Hands Society and her goal has been to assist unemployed and disadvantaged people through skills-based training.

"I'm sure there are people out there who would love the opportunity and don't know how to ask for it," she said. "So many people who could use the opportunity."

The seven local companies that competed for the $5,000 prize in a Dragons' Den-style competition along with Cutting Barriers were: Dooshi, a company that makes pet food and treats from restaurant waste; Sea to Sky Relocation, a service to help retirees and seniors downsize and relocate in an environmentally responsible manner; Rainwater Harvesting, an offshoot of TBI Irrigation that seeks to re-route rainwater to encourage efficient water practices; The Seed Box, which creates edible gardens in a box; Sea to Sky School garden Program, which connects children to the source of their food through school-ground gardens; and DealsinWhistler.com.

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