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Out of the coffee shop: Startups opt for collaboration in business incubators

Thursday, November 01, 2018

 

For startups and growing small businesses, co-working spaces offer a different experience from working in a traditional office or coffee shop corner.

Upon walking into a co-working space there is a buzz of energy and life. Some groups can be seen engaged in lively discussions, enthusiastically scripting their notes on a large drawing board while others may be in deep thought with their heads down at a private desk or in a small office.

Co-working spaces can also be geared toward specific sectors such as arts and technology while others combine a variety of businesses together in a shared space with a common goal: achieving entrepreneurial success. This diverse culture fostering collaboration of teams, ideas and achievement is common in shared workspaces around the world and right here in Windsor, Ont.

Windsor offers budding entrepreneurs incubators that crosses sectors, one that nurtures students and recent graduates and another up-and-coming space aimed at growing social enterprises.

For enterprising students and post-secondary graduates, the University of Windsor EPICentre is a hub for all on-campus entrepreneurial activities. Founded in 2014, the EPICentre provides support for local start-up companies run by post-secondary students or recent graduates of up to seven years.

“The incubation program here at the EPICentre is a great opportunity for student entrepreneurs to further enhance their business. It has allowed me to meet and learn from amazing mentors, as well as given me a space where I can work freely and productively,” said Artur Pawliszko, director of sales and operations of Kegshoe, located in the EPICentre.

The unique, open-concept co-working space cultivates an innovative environment for all members and offers various programs.

“The EPIC Discovery program plants the seed for entrepreneurial ideas. Students are paired with industry professionals who help mentor and guide them through the basic knowledge of building the foundation of their business,” said Layan Barakat, EPICentre’s marketing coordinator. “The EPIC Founders program gives students the opportunity to receive monetary support while working in the facility full-time for three months. Lastly, the EPIC Incubation program gives students the opportunity to utilize the EPIC Innovation facility as their own personal office space.”

Recently, the EPICentre launched Libro-EPIC Social Impact Initiative, a four-month program that nurtures and guides budding social entrepreneurs that are giving back to the community.

Boost Innovations is another organization aimed an incubating local talent for social entrepreneurs. Launched in 2018, Boost Innovations is currently working with Emmanuel United Church and Dom Polski Polish Club to offer affordable, mix-use space to entrepreneurs starting up social enterprise or innovation businesses.

Located centrally in Windsor, The Accelerator offers its members access to many valuable resources, connections and programs that foster business development and innovation within the Windsor-Essex region. Launched in 2011, The Accelerator moved to its new home at 1501 Howard Ave. from downtown in March 2018.

The Accelerator occupies a 55,000 square foot facility which includes a mix of open-concept and private offices, boardroom and meeting rooms, shared copy and print areas and open common and lounge areas.

“Since we opened, we have been an economic driver helping create more than 500 jobs and have contributed more than $15 million in economic development through our startups,” remarked Christopher Pressey, The Accelerator president. “We have also developed a number of amazing programs and events like our Windsor Women Accelerate networking event … and our high school entrepreneurial program, which has reached over 3,000 students over the past four years.”

Like many co-working facilities, The Accelerator offers small businesses and individuals an affordable option to renting individual office space and provides an alternative to a home office or working in a coffee shop. Rent ranges from $10 per day to access common spaces and meeting rooms to $100 per month for an open desk. Open and private offices are also available for between $390 and $1,300 per month.

“… the key to the whole ecosystem working properly is the culture. The culture is built on a foundation of social capital that promotes collaboration and experimentation. The space and culture promote the free movement of talent, ideas and capital, which are the key ingredients to innovation,” said Pressey.

Collin McMahon, co-owner of McMahon group, operates his software development and business automation company from The Accelerator. This is their third office space, after trying to forge small co-working spaces in other buildings. “It wasn’t conducive to meeting other people, talking to other entrepreneurs, and creating those collisions that are necessary for creating larger scale projects.”

“[The Accelerator has] the environment that that’s necessary to breed creativity that allows people to experiment and dive into things with the support that they need,” added McMahon. “That’s what I like most about it — that get in there and work attitude that everyone has.”

McMahon said the attention from Accelerator operators, the opportunity to meet potential clients and support other entrepreneurs through is experience are some other perks to working from The Accelerator.

“I’ve been doing entrepreneurial things since I was 13. It’s all I’ve ever done. And The Accelerator is the place that feels most at home. I’m the most productive I’ve ever been since I’ve been at The Accelerator.”