When entrepreneur Paul Gibson decided to try his hand at running his own business, he thought he’d have to work from his basement.
Instead, the 41-year-old became the first tenant of the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre’s Venture Vault.
“I found that it can be pretty lonely when you’re there all day,” Gibson said. “You transition into your home life and it’s really hard. You’re used to going to work and coming home and now it’s totally different.”
For the past 10 years Gibson and his partners looked at different aviation modules so small airlines can use them to direct their operations.
After quitting his job, Gibson became a member of the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre in order to get some guidance on where to take his business. They helped him secure funding for his business called FlightOp.com as well as how to promote it by working with Google and developing a business plan.
He spent the first couple of months working in his basement, but later learned about some new space being offered by the Innovation Centre at the Centre of Change. Gibson, a Confederation College graduate, said working in the basement can be isolating so he was glad to jump at the opportunity to work at the Centre of Change.
“When you’re working out of your own house there’s no separation,” he said. “It’s nice to have an office you can go to and meet people with coffee machines and a place to take a break.”
He added that he hoped one day to have an office space to call his own.
Innovation Centre manager Judy Sander said they have been in discussions about the move for about a year and although they took over the space at the beginning of May, the Venture Vault didn’t officially open until Thursday.
Sander said the space at the former Hillcrest High School will give business owners like Gibson a chance to grow and connect with other entrepreneurs.
“This has been a piece of the puzzle that we’ve known has been missing for early stage entrepreneurs and innovators,” Sander said. “They’re in their basement or working in their garage or on the kitchen table. It gives them a space where they can come and work. But I think it’s more than just getting out of the house.”
Sander said it’s about creating an environment where business owners have the support they need.
The Innovation Centre also released financial results from its clients.
Through assistance from the Innovation Centre, 48 full-time jobs were created in the region with 59 per cent of the clients expecting to hire new employees next year. The centre reported that they directly provided financial support to 13 projects as well as provided access to $170,000 in market intelligence services.
Sander said the centre is about establishing businesses that are stable that will help strengthen the economy.
“They’re patenting things, launching new products and they have high expectations for future sales growth,” she said. “They maybe one guy at the start but follow these companies and you can see they’re having an impact on our community.”
Members into the Innovation Centre costs about $60.
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