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NABI gears up for big 25

Dar Schwanbeck reviews past years at chamber luncheon

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014 06:00 am

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Next Monday, the Northern Alberta Business Incubator will turn 25 years old.

Celebrations are not planned until early June. But executive director Dar Schwanbeck is already taking the time to remind the community how far NABI has come, and what knowledge they’ve acquired.

He spoke at the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday.

“In round numbers, for every dollar invested in NABI, we return about 10 to the community,” he said.

NABI helps entrepreneurs get their small business off the ground by providing rental spaces, business coaching and shared administrative services.

The organization started out as the St. Albert Business Development Centre. A few years later they became a non-profit society, hoping that they might access more sources of funding that way, said Schwanbeck.

And they did, almost $5 million in public funding, of which they returned about $1 million in property taxes, and, through their businesses, generated about $300 million in gross domestic product for the city and region.

But mostly, they’re here to improve the chances of survival for start-up business, he said.

“Each year we see about 250 to 300 new small businesses who come and in many cases it’s just about fireside chats and conversation,” he said. “And us really acting as a sounding board for what they’re trying to do.”

Being that sounding board has also provided NABI with a unique opportunity to learn from its clients, their successes and failures, and to pass on that knowledge to other newcomers and existing businesses, he said.

The incubator challenges entrepreneurs on everything from their business model to knowing their strategy and having the right character traits.

“We often look to see whether you flinch,” he said. “Leaders don’t flinch.”

And as the times are changing, businesses need to evolve with them, he said.

Schwanbeck said he encourages everyone to know their product and focus on their customer needs. That means staying on top of trends, both in the community and globally, he said.

“The reason trends are so important is because in the world of the Internet this stuff moves and travels very quickly,” he said. “So what you have to ask yourself is who are your customers and what do they really want.”

He also stressed that too many entrepreneurs enter a market that is already saturated with what they’re looking to offer.

A quarter of businesses fail because they lack advantage over their competitors. Simultaneously, 75 per cent of small businesses don’t have enough customers, he said.

Instead, businesses should look for a market that gives them an advantage in sales, and where they know they are needed, he said. They should also identify at least one big goal for their company, he said.

“If you don’t do anything else, do that,” he said. “And then ask yourself ‘well, what is the restraint that’s affecting me from getting it’.”

NABI will celebrate its 25-year anniversary on June 11 at Apex Casino in St. Albert from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. To RVSP contact or call 780-460-1000 by May 23.

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