It’s Small Business Month this month. Getting a dream off the ground can be a daunting task for most people; however, UVic’s Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurs (ICE) in the Gustavson School of Business is recently expanded to help jump-start startups. It offers “business incubator” services: tools and support for entrepreneurs.
“Startups that come out of incubators or accelerators tend to do better,” says Robin Milne, director of ICE. This incubator is free to use. ICE offers key tools such as workspace and access to advisors. The centre can help with developing a business plan with greater credibility.
ICE has a four-phase process for clients. First, the intake process is where new clients apply and get accepted. Second phase is the development of a draft business plan. Phase three is a complete business plan, and finally phase four is preparing for investors. In between each phase, the clients prepare a presentation before a review panel. This helps give entrepreneurs skills for pitching ideas in front a board.
ICE encourages students, recent graduates, staff, and faculty to come forward with ideas for businesses. More than a dozen projects are in the pipeline now. Students from all different faculties have come forward, and some students that started projects have since left the incubator after receiving all the help they needed. “Limespot . . . left because they’ve raised well over $100 000. They’ve now got their own board, they’ve got customers, they’re up and running. Which is our goal,” says Milne. Limespot is a company that turns Facebook pages into one-click shopping experiences, and has clients like Nimanny and Hemp & Company. One other tech start-up has left the incubator and has now moved into the business accelerator.
ICE used to be called the Innovation Centre for Students. Brock Smith, a lawyer specializing in technology and emerging businesses, started it for business students originally, but two years ago it widened its scope to include all students, staff, and alumni. This is made possible by funding the centre received from the Industrial Research Assistance Program. Milne says ICE is in the second year of a three-year contribution agreement that the assistance program provided.
“That really helped us get to another level. As well as support from UVic itself, of course,” she says. The funding has helped ICE hire some part-time staff, and UVic has given it room in Sedgewick to provide its clients with workspace.
ICE is located in room 117F, in the basement of the Business and Economics Building, and where it sees a variety of clients. Check out the website at www.iceuvic.ca for more information.