Ask any entrepreneur about the hurdles they face when getting their idea off the ground and the answers are often the same: lack of money, time and guidance. Launching a business is hard in the best of times. Many would-be ventures never realize their potential because the help they need isn’t there when they need it. How can fledgling entrepreneurs get the help they need to be successful long-term?
Enter the business incubator.
Incubators are designed to give start-up companies space, capital and guidance they need to launch themselves successfully into their respective industries. The first formal business incubator appeared in 1959 in Batavia, New York, as the Batavia Industrial Center.1 Business incubators began to take hold through the 1980s, and now, there are more than 150 incubation spaces across Canada alone.2 Regina is one of the few major cities in the country without a business incubator—until now.
Aspiring entrepreneurs, say hello to the Conexus Business Incubator.
Regina-based Conexus Credit Union recognized the need for a business incubator in the city, and set to work to create something for local entrepreneurs to spread their wings as they get the advice they need to succeed. For Conexus, the decision to embrace business incubation was an easy one. “98 percent of the businesses in Saskatchewan are small or micro businesses,” says Jordan McFarlen, Conexus Business Incubator Manager. “Small businesses are a big part of the provincial economy, and employ thousands of people. Encouraging growth in small business just makes sense. It benefits not only the entrepreneur, but the communities they operate in and the province as a whole.” Conexus wants to reduce the barrier to entrepreneurship and encourage more people to take the leap with the supports in place that can help accelerate their success rate.
Conexus will officially launch its business incubator this fall, utilizing the former offices of successful Regina start-up Gas Buddy at Innovation Place before moving to their permanent home on College Avenue in 2020. “The business incubator gathers together cohorts of start-up companies, and provides them with the community, mentorship, and programming they need,” says McFarlen. “Often, entrepreneurs have a great idea and an initial product they are taking to market, but they need more support with things like revenue models, marketing and growth strategies. We provide that advice, as well as access to capital and the physical space they need to function.”
Innovation grows here.
Conexus also sees the incubator as more than just a place for companies to launch. It also signals that Regina is a place to do business and be successful. On the surface, it may not seem like Regina is a hotbed of entrepreneurial innovation. However, nothing could be further from the truth. “Regina is a great place to start a business, and we want everyone to know that,” says McFarlen. “You don’t have to move away to be successful and do great things. Innovative technologies and big ideas aren’t exclusive to Silicon Valley. We have everything we need right here to take our place as an economic force.”
Not only is Conexus making its mark with the Business Incubator, they’re also working on their own Venture Capital Fund. Conexus’ incubation space is one part of their plan to grow entrepreneurial opportunities in Saskatchewan. Their future Venture Capital Fund will bridge even more gaps for entrepreneurs, providing access to much needed capital for start-up ventures.
The first cohort will join the incubator this fall, with McFarlen anticipating most companies residing within it for one to two years. “We’re initially tailoring our incubator experience to each start-up we’re working with. Every business is different and we’re not taking a cookie cutter approach,” he says. “Our goal is to turn out successful ventures into the world, giving them the leg up they need to get there. There is so much talent here in Regina, and Conexus can’t wait to join them on their journey.”
To learn more about the Conexus Business Incubator, visit conexusbuildingcommunities.ca/business-incubator.