When it comes to developing a new business Bruce Hardy feels there is a misconception. “A lot of people think that the hardest part is coming up with a good idea” said Hardy, from the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). “That’s the easiest part. It’s everything that comes after that involves the hard work.”
Hardy was one of several industry experts presenting at the Kootenay Commercialization Boot Camps that took place in Castlegar and Cranbrook in March. These seminars are part of a regional outreach initiative supported by the BCIT Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP), which included partnered events in Courtenay, Terrace, Fort St. John, and Prince George.
BCIT worked with agencies based in each region to provide a series of one-day workshops offering support and assistance for entrepreneurs and small business developers across British Columbia with a goal of helping them take their business or product from idea stage to the marketplace.
“Getting our team to communities outside of the Lower Mainland is important” said Dana Higgins, BCIT CAP. “It was great to be able to meet with people face-to-face, provide support, and learn about all the innovative business initiatives that are being developed across the province”
While there are dedicated staff and support networks throughout the province, often entrepreneurs in smaller, more remote areas cannot access resources as easily as their counterparts in more populated areas of the Lower Mainland. Recognizing this challenge, BCIT partners with various agencies throughout the province in order to bring resources, support and knowledge transfer to these communities.
Topics covered in the Commercialization Boot Camps include an overview of the commercialization process, marketing research, intellectual property, funding, and other available sources of support and assistance.
Another important part of these events is the opportunity to learn from other entrepreneurs and to network. Gary and Susan Snow of Creston, B.C., shared some of the challenges and opportunities that they have encountered in growing their business, Table Tree Juice.
The Snows urged attendees to take advantage of the resources that are available in their communities and they are definitely practicing what they preach. The Snows volunteer as members of the board and in associations in their industry, work closely with NRC IRAP and Community Futures, tested their product in local co-ops, and took many trips to the Lower Mainland to take advantage of support and programs available there. The Snows competed in and won the BC Innovation Council (BCIC) New Ventures Competition, an annual technology business-idea competition.
Susan Snow, who keeps a mentor list of over 70 people that they can contact for support, encouraged attendees to talk to everybody and tell them that you are there to learn. If you do this, people will often open up and share their expertise and experience.
“Be open – you will find out things you never knew you didn’t know” said Gary. Get in touch with professionals that can assist you in areas where you lack expertise, and spend a little extra money to get some things professionally done.
In Castlegar, Gordon Greaves, owner and founder of The VMS Group, credits long-term planning and relationship building for the success of his company. “The important thing over the years as you’re building a business is that you remain in contact with the people you’ve done business with before” says Greaves. “Past customers can be the best advertising you ever had.”
Greaves’ word of advice to start-ups is that “there are a lot of resources that are offered free or at a small cost” and he encourages entrepreneurs to take advantage of them and to “do the stuff that they tell you to do and your odds will improve for succeeding.”
Some key regional partner agencies and support expetise in Southern B.C.: Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST), Kootenay Rockies Innovation Council (KRIC), Kamloops Innovation Centre, Venture Kamloops, Accelerate Okanagan, Mid-Island Science, Technology & Innovation Council (MISTIC), BCIC, NRC IRAP, Canadian Innovation and Commercialization Program, Community Futures, CRA Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED), Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS). and regional colleges and universities.
Look for our regional innovation or commercialization events again in the late spring or summer.