Start-up businesses find home in St. Albert
NAIT business incubator provides tools for success
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Sunday, Aug 26, 2012 06:00 am
A little-known gem in the Capital region’s start-up business community is helping companies succeed in St. Albert.
NovaNAIT’s business incubation facility on St. Albert Trail offers valuable resources to start-up businesses and local entrepreneurs.
“It’s designed … to help give them the resources and access to the resources of NAIT as an institution,” said Sandra Spencer, acting manager of enabling programs. “We try to give them the resources they need to be a successful company and eventually graduate and continue on their own.”
The business incubator encourages growth and sustainability for the businesses, while offering clients flexible leasing terms, professional guidance and access to industry experts.
Spencer said businesses tend to be product- or technology-based since these relate most to the programs offered at NAIT.
“We’re helping [businesses] in that initial period where they’re very prone to failure and that’s just the reality of a start-up,” she said. “So many start-ups will fail in the first few years and that’s when it’s really important to understand if this is something worth moving forward with.”
There are seven office suites available at the St. Albert facility, with a footprint of more than 8,600 square feet. Business incubation is also offered at the school’s main campus.
Currently, six businesses call the St. Albert facility home, with a handful more involved in virtual incubation.
“We’ve got different companies at different stages, which is really ideal because they also learn from each other,” Spencer said.
The business incubation site isn’t limited to start-ups, as the available resources can also benefit evolving businesses.
Avatar Media has been in operation since 1996 and has spent time at both of NAIT’s business incubation facilities. It was based at NAIT’s main campus for one year before moving to a larger space in St. Albert in Sept. 2011.
“We focus primarily on bringing ideas to life,” said Jaro Malanowski, president and CEO. “We work in film and television … but we also integrate a lot of digital media, including animation, mobile app development and web development.”
He said the company has experienced significant growth in staff numbers as well as offered services since becoming involved with novaNAIT.
“They’re a wonderful resource,” he said. “They offer not only access to facilities at NAIT but also the entrepreneurship skills through their entrepreneur in residence program.”
Avatar Media is currently working with St. Albert’s Michif Institute to create a virtual museum and oral history project.
Swift Media is the newest company to move into the facility and has been there since the beginning of June.
The digital agency builds websites, provides website hosting, co-ordinates social media and does consulting and marketing work for businesses.
“Their technology services are really great for what we do. It’s been one of the best moves of our business life because of everything NAIT has,” said Mathew Potter, owner.
Companies hoping to set up shop at the facility must complete an application and if selected, can sign a one-year lease that can later be extended.
“Most companies won’t stay more than two or three years,” Spencer said. “At that point, they should have made it to the next level or had to make some tough decisions on whether they’re still going to continue.”
Businesses have access to a wide range of resources that can help guide the business to success while allowing entrepreneurs to remain in control.
“We don’t make decisions for companies and we don’t have a vested interest in the company, other than wanting to see a successful company contribute back to the Alberta economy,” Spencer said.
She said at least six companies have graduated from the incubation services offered at NAIT.