Windsor entrepreneurs accelerate their businesses

Some Windsor entrepreneurs are saying a new non-profit venture downtown is offering them a leg up in expanding their businesses.

Some Windsor entrepreneurs are saying a new non-profit venture downtown is offering them a leg up in expanding their businesses.

The Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator, an arm of the Downtown Business Improvement Association, provides a high-tech office space for about 40 small businesses.

"If you're presently working in your basement and you're ready to take that next step, we want to provide atmosphere here where you can move in to help take you to the next step," said Tony Paniccia, the incubator's manager.

Paniccia said four businesses have already moved in since opening two weeks ago, and there are four or five others who are in the process of being approved as tenants.

Business Accelerator seeking tenants

For $550 per month, entrepreneurs have access to a full-time receptionist, free internet and long-distance phone lines, a kitchen, and state-of-the-art meeting room — things a fledgling company couldn't afford otherwise.

"It was a no brainer, with all the shared amenities," said Laura Tucker, President of Magenta Advertizing.

Paniccia said they're not looking to host established businesses looking for cheap rent, and they don't want tenants to stay longer than a year or two.

The idea is to coach and encourage businesses to the point where they grow and prosper, and then move out into downtown office space to energize the city's core, said Virginia Cosco-Pizzuti, the BIA's chair. She was excited about the future prospects for downtown.

"People are starting to feel the excitement of the core — of what the core can offer, and development like this will hopefully encourage more development," Cosco-Pizzuti said.

Successful entrepreneurs act as coaches

The other advantage of the business incubator is the chance for entrepreneurs to enlist volunteer mentors, to coach them through the trials and tribulations of taking a venture from small potatoes to big business, said Paniccia.

The DWBA has also set up connections with other innovation centres to offer free training and resources to its members. One example is WETech, a high-tech incubator located on the premises, which among other services teaches entrepreneurs on how to raise money to launch their new ventures.

The project, which has taken over an old bingo hall at the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Tuscarora Street, received $680,000 from the Federal Economic Development Agency.

The downtown BIA was awarded the grant when another organization backed out — the only requirement was it had to turn the idea into a reality within a four-month time span. Paniccia said the BIA should be very proud of its accomplishment.

Matt Pollett is thankful the DWBA made it happen. His web design company, Coolweb, has already hooked up with new clients in the few weeks since he moved from a friend's office to the downtown incubator.

"The staff here help you with anything that you need."