‘Incubating’ small businesses

Small business is big business in British Columbia. Small, innovative businesses play a critical role in BC’s overall economy and are a key factor in economic development strategies for communities within the Kootenay Region.

Small business is big business in British Columbia. Small, innovative businesses play a critical role in BC’s overall economy and are a key factor in economic development strategies for communities within the Kootenay Region.

However, encouraging and supporting small business growth can be a challenge at the community and regional level.

This issue was on the minds of the sister organizations Kootenay Rockies Innovation Council (KRIC) and the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) representing the East and West Kootenays respectively.

KRIC and KAST are dedicated to fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the Kootenays. They provide a wide range of high-value services including business mentoring and coaching, networking and connections, and dynamic learning events to stimulate the growth of innovative and technology businesses with the intent of maintaining and enhancing the competitiveness of the region.

“Small businesses are particularly vulnerable during their first five years and we wanted to explore what tools are available to encourage and support small business growth within our mandate area,” says KRIC executive director Larry Sparks. “One potential economic development tool that we identified was business incubation.”

KRIC and KAST worked together to secure support from the National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program to develop a report to assist Kootenay communities in determining if business incubation was an appropriate contribution to their economic development strategies.

KRIC and KAST contracted Kimberley-based consulting firm Green Dimensions to conduct a phase one business incubator feasibility study which is now available online on the KRIC and KAST websites.

Entitled, “Introduction to Business Incubators: A Kootenay Opportunity — a report by KRIC and KAST,” the report provides community stakeholders with the information necessary to understand the different models of business incubators, the benefits to businesses and communities alike and the process to develop a successful business incubator.

According to the report’s author Schaun Goodeve, “It is clear that business incubators provide essential services and support that start ups require to be successful. Whether it is business mentoring or cost savings through shared office resources, business incubator clients have a remarkably high success rate compared to businesses that go it alone.”

The report outlines the various services that a business incubator could provide and details the characteristics of a successful incubator.

“Our research indicates that there needs to be a local champion to assume a lead role in assembling stakeholders and generating community support,” Goodeve added.

“Secondly, it is imperative that communities conduct a comprehensive feasibility study that would determine among other variables the focus of the incubator, a sustainable funding model, partner institutions/organizations, evaluation of the model and potential site for the incubator.”

Ultimately KRIC and KAST expect that the report will serve as a useful resource for communities considering business incubation. For more information about the report or business incubation please contact KRIC or KAST directly at info@kast.com or info@kric.ca.

/Submitted by Green Dimensions Consulting Inc.