The Northern Alberta Business Incubator has found itself challenged by an influx of new entrepreneurs since the “meltdown” in the oil patch this fall.
Traditionally in any given year, NABI sees between 200 to 250 new entrepreneurs access their business counselling services.
“These aren’t necessarily people who are going to rent space or go off and start businesses,” said managing director Dar Schwanbeck, “they might just have an idea.”
Out of the businesses that seek what he calls “pathfinding” advice, about one in 10 will end up becoming a NABI client, others will set up a business on their own or let their idea fizzle out. As a result, the incubator takes on about 20 new clients per year – either virtually or within one of its two St. Albert buildings.
In the last four or five weeks, however, business has nearly doubled – with six to eight entrepreneurs per week seeking counselling.
Schwanbeck said the incubator is struggling to keep up.
“Frankly we need to figure out how we’re going to fund that. Our challenge is we love doing the work and it’s good for business, but it means that we need more counseling staff and we’re going to need more space,” he said.
NABI is actively looking for more office space, which is continuously at 100 per cent occupancy according to Schwanbeck, but of more concern is availability of consultants.
“The most important thing is, whoever these entrepreneurs are, they actually get high quality advice,” he said.