Mission and background

SAJE accompagnateur d'entrepreneurs

As a leader in its field, the SAJE has adopted the mission to contribute to the business success of new entrepreneurs by offering consulting services, coaching and training.

In 1985, a number of youth initiative support groups were established. The directors of these assistance services for young entrepreneurs (the ancestors of the SAJE) had no idea of the true import of what they had done or the real scope of the adventure they were embarking on. The course ahead of them was not all smooth sailing.

In two decades, the SAJE model went through many transformations and overcame many obstacles, all while continuing to provide the same excellent service to aspiring entrepreneurs in Québec. In general, it was highly successful, both in terms of politics and economics and in terms of the perception of entrepreneurship.

When politics gets it right

The SAJE owes its existence to the International Year of Youth. Many proposals were put forward at that time to help young people create their own jobs. With input from many financial partners and community stakeholders, business start-up assistance groups called “support organizations for youth initiatives” (OSIJ for the French Organismes de soutien aux initiatives jeunesse) were set up all across Québec.

From the very beginning, these SAJE forerunners adopted a clear mission: to develop entrepreneurial expertise in order to offer future entrepreneurs customized consulting services.

For ten years, the number of OSIJs increased across Québec. At the peak, there were 107 of them, in every region of the province. The sheer number of them attests to their value.

Domino effect

Ten years after its creation, in 1995, the SAJE model had proven its chops and a new need emerged: helping businesses survive. It was decided at that time that all the OSIJs would be merged under the title Association des SAJE du Québec (ASAJEQ). This new association created a follow-up centre to offer youth businesses customized growth management services. It was soon proven that youth businesses survived longer when they received sound follow-up from the SAJEs.

The success was so resounding that the SAJEs decided to pool everything with the specific intention of providing even better service. That step was the real kick-off for the merger of the SAJEs in Montréal. Budget, resources and workforce: everything was merged to create, in 1997, the SAJE.

A new service landscape

In 1998, the Québec government created the local development centres (CLD or Centres locaux de développement) to offer one-stop-shopping for programs for entrepreneurs and social economy projects. Designed as part of the new Secrétariat aux régions local and regional development policy, these CLDs incorporated the existing entrepreneurial assistance organizations, including the entire OSIJ network.

In Montréal, the situation was different. The critical mass of clients and resources, the mobility of the entrepreneurs and the solid expertise already acquired by the SAJEs allowed Montréal to maintain its existing structures.

A valid model – with figures to prove it

In 25 ans, the SAJE model has helped start up 18,542 business, which have created nearly 40,000 jobs, with projected investments of over $800 million.

With a sense of pride tinged with nostalgia, Lucie Demers, former executive director and board member of the SAJE, stated: "The SAJE model is unique, sometimes hindered in its development by a lack of means, but always an extraordinary space for creativity. It is incredible that it has come so far in 20 years. The SAJE is an organization with a great deal of depth."

And for the next 25 years ?... " The best awaits us! ".

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