Group aims to make Nanaimo entrepreneurial capital

NANAIMO – Not-for-profit is looking to create a culture of entrepreneurs and innovators in the Harbour City.

A new organization is looking to put Nanaimo on the map for more than its namesake treat. It wants the city to become the entrepreneurial capital of Canada.

Startup Nanaimo, a grassroots, not-for-profit organization, officially launches this week with a mission to support and grow a community of entrepreneurs and innovators.

The organization started earlier this year when parent organization Startup Canada announced the Harbour City as one of five cities allowed to join into its cross-country network.

For Startup’s directors, the opportunity means potential. They want to use their new organization to create a vibrant entrepreneurial culture to offer unique ways for startups to network, connect to local resources and support their success.

There’s a movement underfoot, they say. More home-based businesses are seeking connections outside the home, baby boomers are building succession plans and local agencies are coming up with new initiatives like co-working spaces to make Nanaimo attractive to professionals. Startup Nanaimo plans to keep the momentum going with hopes of helping to grow 100 new start-ups a year.

“The potential is huge,” said Kelsey Wolff, a director, who points to the successes of other start-up communities like Prince George that have attracted and retained talent that contributes to the local economy.

“I think the potential is almost limitless for Nanaimo … if we are able to work together and collaborate with partner organizations and increase our entrepreneurial leads.”

Wolff and three other directors have begun their introduction to Nanaimo with a  reading circle and monthly coffee meet up for people to discuss new business ideas.

Now they are hosting Startup’s official launch and planning an unConference to discuss the future of entrepreneurialism in the Harbour City. The group also plans to support the work of other agencies by promoting their events on a national scale and helping them connect and collaborate on different projects.

The group will bring together positive energy and create chances for motivated, “want-to-change-the-world type people” to create their own opportunities in Nanaimo, says director Ken Hammer.

“It’s creating culture and infrastructure where [entrepreneurs] are supported,” he said.

The Startup launch happens from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today (March 25) at the Nanaimo Museum.