For budding young business students from the University of Manitoba and Red River College (RRC), there was no better place to be than on the second annual Start-Up Crawl bus on Friday.
The daylong event demonstrates how an original business plan can grow wings in Winnipeg’s commerce community and take flight through the utilization of this city’s innovative hotspots.
Indeed several of this year’s new business presenters, including Nick Danzinger, were mere students on last year’s crawl.
“Nick is a perfect example of a guy who got revenue positive really quick and is moving on to develop a scalable business that could be big business some day,” said Scott MacAulay, Entrepreneurship 2.0 Researcher and Instructor at RRC who was one of the organizers for this year’s crawl.
Danzinger’s custom phone case company DigiPlus was a just an idea nine months ago. Now he is building an extensive product list and closing profitable deals – all because of his ability to utilize the Ramp Up Manitoba and AssentWorks joint facility in the Exchange District.
Ramp Up is a space where prospective entrepreneurs can rent a desk for $50 a month, and offers an environment for developers, designers and entrepreneurs to become the latest technology startup in Winnipeg.
Ramp Up was founded by Chris Johnson who – along with former Asper School of Business student and Start-Up Crawl founder Luc Bohunicky – plays the role of entrepreneurial guru to the students, giving guidance on the bus between stops.
Across the hall from Ramp Up is AssentWorks, a self-described, “non-profit workshop dedicated to providing hands-on access to fabrication and prototyping equipment, knowledge, and a community of support for entrepreneurs, inventors, tinkerers, artists, and innovators.”
This is the fabrication lab (“Fab Lab”) where your product can be realized through woodworking, metalworking, 3D printers and a vast assortment of other electronic tools and incubators.
The AssentWorks/Ramp Up space received a lot of buzz from the student crawlers, as it truly offered a model into how a prospective business plan can be made into a retail reality.
While a lot of the focus on the bus is around starting up your own enterprise (a constant refrain from Johnson and Bohunicky was how then end goal is to be your own boss) the Start-up Crawl also works as a showcase for many of Manitoba’s innovative and energetic companies.
Advolve Media – a mirror-based advertising company, DASH – an upstart social media agency by David Bell and Christian Lunny (who aren’t even in their 20s), and Skip the Dishes – the food delivery service that is taking over western Canada, were some of the many innovative Winnipeg-based companies that took part in relaying sage advice to the students.
These enterprises were buttressed by non-profit organizations and commerce groups like Innovate Manitoba, World Trade Centre Winnipeg and Downtown Winnipeg Biz, who demonstrated for the students how the right financing and location can help grow your business.
Student interest in the crawl has already doubled, with a second bus added to accommodate the turnout this year.
Next year the organizers are hoping to add even more buses and to have students from the University of Winnipeg and L’Université de Saint-Boniface take part.
National Leasing, the crawl’s premier sponsor has donated $50,000 toward making these entrepreneurial connections happen, and organizers like MacAulay hope that money can go into doing more and more field trips with an end goal of growing Winnipeg’s innovative entrepreneur community – regardless of the educational institution a student might be part of.
“I guess you could say we are suppose to be competitive from an education standpoint but what I care about is building our community. That is number one to me,” said MacAulay.
“I want to see the Asper students who are entrepreneurs to be successful, because that means there is another entrepreneur born who has built businesses, and that is really important for building an innovative economy.”