Small business owners share space for mutual success
As Tim Merry stands in the middle of an old school room on Nova Scotia’s south shore, the sun streams through the windows onto a stylized black and white mural on the wall. It shows the three Mahone Bay churches. Beneath his feet are the grooves of a beautiful old wooden floor, trod by generations of students. The space is about to become home to a new type of scholar: small business owners and independent professionals, networking and learning from each other. They call it The Hub. The launch party is in May.
An hour’s drive away, Frances Schagen is working to establish a hub in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Her group has gathered a core of interested clients, including 35 web developers who have begun monthly meetings. She wants to be settled in a permanent space this spring.
Schagen believes membership fees from the people who use the space are not enough to sustain a rural hub on its own. She’s now working on a sponsorship model, examining who will benefit from this kind of business incubator. “We know that the banks will. Any business that services small business will benefit by us bringing small businesses together and making them stronger,” she says.
Former Aliant and Emera executive Ron Smith agrees. In mid-2012, Smith was appointed to the team that studied how the south shore region could transition after the loss of major employer, Resolute Forest Products. Smith has given much thought to the critical ingredients for a rural hub. “One would be an active local sponsor group, which I would think would normally be a not-for-profit group,” he says. “It could be a business, but I think it would have to be local in order to be really responsive to local folks.”
Another key ingredient, Smith says, would be government support–of a limited sort. “I think there is a role for them to help with things like feasibility studies and seed funding,” he says. “But I also think I wouldn’t encourage government to really help at all if there was that core of local owners and sponsors. Because I think that’s the blood that will flow in the veins and will make it worthwhile.”
By Shaina Luck