The last two years have been transformational for our organization! We’re excited for what the next two will bring.
A message from our President.
The world has been through a tough couple of years since the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic first shut down Canada, but for our team here at Innovation Central Society – Hubspace, it’s been one of the most exciting periods we’ve ever experienced.
That first spring we hired an entirely new executive team, Garth Frizzell, Charles Scott, Chris King, and a few months later, Nadine Fieber. I’m happy to say that through their hard work and dedication, they have set new records for our Society. In the last two years, the team has facilitated $862 thousand in new revenue, $8 million in investment, and helped create 16 new jobs with our clients. This is a monumental leap for our metrics and highlights the growing focus on technology and innovation in our northern economy.
We also delivered a new program this year. Our sister accelerator on Vancouver Island, Innovation Island Technology Association, and our funder, Innovate BC created the Digital Economy: Rapid Response + Resilience (DER3) Program. This program leveraged our experience with business technology to help brick-and-mortar businesses adapt to the lockdowns and other restrictions. Over the 8 months we delivered this program we helped 157 different businesses across the north with topics such as digital marketing, e-commerce, work-from-home tech and general business coaching among other things.
Our organization is growing, not only because of the excellent work of our staff, but also because northern BC is becoming an increasingly technological economy. Our Society has always believed in the power of bringing industry and technology together, and with the focus on sustainability and the pressures of a COVID19 world, others are starting to see the immense potential in our economy. We are very well positioned to be a key facilitator in this technological transformation and I am very excited for what the next year will bring.
-Will Cadell, President of Innovation Central Society – Hubspace
Hubspace is an entity under the umbrella of Innovation Central Society (ICS), a non-profit organization located in Prince George, B.C.
We are the Innovation Accelerator for Northern British Columbia helping the technology community to grow and the business community to adopt technology.
ICS – Hubspace helps the technology community to grow and the business community to adopt technology. We accomplish this by assisting entrepreneurs to build ventures; and innovators to connect with peers, mindsets and resources.
ICS – Hubspace is a leader in the North in fostering innovative companies and the innovation ecosystem.
We strategically focus on:
- Working directly with technology-centered entrepreneurs to help them start and expand their firm;
- Working directly with all entrepreneurs to help them adopt technology into their ventures;
- Enhancing the talent available to the innovation community by enhancing the relevant business-oriented technology skills of the existing pool and by participating in talent attraction efforts where appropriate;
- Engaging with the technology community through sector and partner entities identified to understand the needs.
Moving our office.
The executive team determined that because of financial pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and our commitment to our economic development initiatives, it was not feasible to continue to deliver co-working and lease the location at 1299 Third Avenue.
At the end of September 2020, notice was given to the landlord and coworkers that the society would not continue to manage the co-working space after March 31, 2021. Seeing the operation of a co-working space as beneficial to the City, we passed off the management of the space and donated some of its infrastructure to Reg Feyer of CFIS-Radio to continue its delivery, it’s now called the Q3 Creative Business Hub.
New office space with availability on April 1, 2021, was found in early 2021 at 1584 7th Avenue. After the agreement and renovations were finalized, ICS-Hubspace officially opened its doors at the new location on April 1, 2021.
The new space costs significantly less in rent, offers office spaces for society staff and community partners, and a spacious meeting area. Unit #101 features a reception area, 6 individual offices, a kitchenette and storage area, washrooms and a board meeting room. Unit #102 features a reception area, 5 individual offices, a small kitchen and a washroom.
The Venture Accelerator Program.
The Venture Accelerator Program (VAP) is our longest-running program which is funded by Innovate BC and aims to assist innovative entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses and promote regional economic development.
This is done by exposing entrepreneurs to a range of tools such as the Business Model Canvas and Lean Growth Model as well as pairing them with an Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) who has relevant knowledge and experience in their sector.
We aim to work with 20 clients per year, and many of the clients work with us for extended periods of time as they grow from idea generation to launch.
Last year, ICS-Hubspace served 25 clients which resulted in $418,000 new revenue, $4,700,000 in investments, and 4 new jobs created.
This year we have worked with 21 clients and has already helped generate $444,000 in new revenue and $3,297,600 in investment.
Open Water Yachts
Simon is a Mechanical Engineer but his passion is the ocean and sailing.
After working in the industry for many years, he saw an opportunity to combine his passion for the ocean and his skills as an engineer.
In 2016, he founded Open Water Yachts with the goal of using advanced materials and electric propulsion systems to create an innovative catamaran that would be high performance, environmentally sustainable, and also be able to be containerized and shipped anywhere in the world for sailing expeditions.
Through the help of ICS-Hubspace, the National Research Council, Northern Development Initiative Trust, and Community Futures Fraser Fort George, Simon has his fully electric, carbon fiber catamaran in the water and is currently conducting the final cosmetic fittings and field performance tests. He has secured some initial capital and has great interest from a number of investors that are eagerly watching his prototype testing.
“Hubspace introduced me to the right information and people at the right time and worked with me to grow from where I was to where I am today” Simon has said. “Having access to a provincial network of technical specialists and entrepreneurs from my home in a small northern city has been instrumental in moving this project forward”.
Benevolent Charity Solutions
Angela is the Founder and long-term Executive Director of the Prince George Humane Society; and the Chief Executive Officer of Benevolent Charity Solutions.
An immigrant from South Africa, she has a background in sales and marketing as well as her most recent career in not-for-profit management. At the beginning of the pandemic, Angela was forced to re-evaluate how the Humane Society conducted its programming and fundraisings in an environment without in-person contact.
Angela founded Benevolent Charity Solutions as a way to help charities and not-for-profits take advantage of this “digital-first” approach to engaging their communities and fundraising. Current solutions only allow organizations to do a mediocre job connecting with their communities and Benevolent Charity Solutions aims to close this gap and assist organizations to have deeper and more meaningful connections to their communities.
We worked with Angela to validate and refine her idea and helped her find efficiencies in her financial plan. With a connection to an Entrepreneur in Residence from the Provincial network, Angela was able to identify what would be needed to build her venture, engage partners and initial clients.
Angela and Benevolent Charity Solutions are now in the final stages of piloting her solution and preparing pitches for investors.
In November 2021, Angela successfully pitched in the City of Prince George’s “Titan’s Den” and received a $3,000.00 investment.
Simply Cleaning Essentials
Yousra has a passion for environmental sustainability and an interest in science.
Simply Cleaning Essentials offers a range of products from Laundry Detergents to dryer balls. Their goal is to create products that are non-toxic, all-natural, and waste-free. Along with the sustainable products themselves, she also uses packaging that can be reused and refilled.
We sponsored Yousra to go through Alacrity Canada’s Digital Marketing Bootcamp and paired her with an Entrepreneur in Residence who had a background in Health and Wellness Retail. Yousra refined her marketing and understand what partnering with retailers would look like.
She was also one of a number of entrepreneurs who pitched their ideas to the City of PG’s “Titans Den” and successfully walked away with some investment to create a number of marketing assets. Currently, she is selling her products in six locations in Prince George, two in Quesnel and one in Mackenzie as well as directly to some select clients.
ICS-Hubspace helped me to understand my idea, research my market, connected me to experts who guided me through the validation process, and constantly checked in with me to show me new opportunities that had arisen.” Yousra told our staff.
“Without ICS-Hubspace, I wouldn’t have known about Titan’s Den or the Digital Marketing Bootcamp.” Yousra told us “Working with ICS-Hubspace has been incredibly beneficial to my business”.
Digital Marketing Bootcamp.
In the summer of 2020, the BC Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery & Innovation approached the BC Accelerator Network to help with the promotion of a Digital Marketing Bootcamp that had been designed by Alacrity Canada.
This program had been piloted in Quesnel and the Ministry and Alacrity were hoping to roll the program out to a wider audience with the help of a Community Workforce Response (CWR) Grant, which would cover the costs for its participants.
The program was designed to give anyone the basic skills needed to fill the role of junior marketing manager. It covered ideas like customer avatars, value propositions, public relations, and technical skills like how to work the back end of digital advertising platforms and how to build effective websites.
To qualify for the CWR Grant participants needed to be either unemployed or underemployed. We sponsored 28 individuals to proceed through the training, including Nadine Fieber and Michael Daykin, both of whom would be hired by the society after their completion. This program was very well built and covered a vast amount of information. It required 20 hours per week in class over a span of 8 weeks.
The success of both the pilot in Quesnel and the partnership with the BC Accelerator network lead the Provincial government to fund this program directly as part of their COVID-19 response package. We encouraged many of our 157 DER3 clients to utilize the course and have heard nothing but positive feedback from all who have taken it.
Created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Digital Economy: Rapid Response + Resiliency (DER3) program leveraged ICS-Hubspace’s expertise in digital technologies to provide advisory services and subsidized contractors for small and medium businesses that wanted to enter or expand into the digital economy. DER3 was funded by Western Diversification through Innovate BC and was delivered by all regional members of the BC Accelerator Network.
We contracted Michael Daykin (Daykin Digital), Robert Quibell (Vortex Social Marketing), Gregg Kauk and Quynlan Young (Prince George Chamber of Commerce) to assist in the delivery of this program by providing the following services:
- General business coaching
- Creation, analysis, and improvement of marketing strategies and digital marketing activities
- Best practices and learning resources for digital business tools
- Implementation and improvement of e-commerce solutions and work-from-home technologies
- Connections to grants and funding directed to offset COVID-19 losses
Over the eight and a half months this program ran, the DER3 team helped:
The Rusty Pitchfork
Kim is an ex-RCMP officer and serial entrepreneur.
After selling her first business, Kim and family moved to Fraser Lake to retire. Never one to take time to rest, Kim founded The Rusty Pitchfork Farm Market, a company dedicated to crafting hand-made, all-natural health and wellness products.
When we first started working with Kim through the DER3 program, she had grown to the limits of what her basement production space was capable of handling. Christmas Market sales were a mainstay of her business and COVID-19 would destroy her ability to sell in person. She had created a website, but there were still kinks in it that were limiting her sales. The DER3 team worked with her to clarify her website and business model and prepare for expansion.
Since Christmas of 2020, Kim has made amazing progress with her business.
She moved into a commercial production space within village limits and grew her business from 3 part-time employees to 4 full-time and 7 part-time staff.
She worked with our Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR’s) to prepare her pitch to a number of major retailers and is now in 12 stores throughout western Canada as well as having her lines in Federated Co-Op locations across Canada.
Through her hard work and dedication, Kim has created a destination for all people in Fraser Lake recently by expanding her storefront to become a small café and caterer – a service that municipality was desperately lacking.
Ryan & Jocelyn Chowdhry
Ryan and Jocelyn are the founders of a private tutoring business in Prince George, B.C.
Ryan and Jocelyn both completed their Bachelors of Education and moved to Prince George to begin their careers. Ryan supported himself through tutoring while going to university and credits it with how he was able to support himself.
When he completed his degree, he thought “there was never a shortage of students who needed help with their classes and I always had a talent for communicating. There must be other students out there like me”. from this idea, PG Tutors was born.
Through the DER3 program, we helped the Chowdhry’s pay for a portion of their website and connect them with a marketing coach. They participated in the City of Prince George’s Titans Den competition and were well prepared for their pitch.
They will grow and start employing university students and other teachers to serve their clients. PG Tutors will work with all levels of students, from elementary to university, and hope to expand from there into working with employers who want to re-skill their employees.
As the DER3 program winds down, we have admitted PG Tutors as our newest Venture Accelerator client.
Connecting to the Northern BC Economic Development Sector
Northern B.C. is a large and diverse area and as such has many different entities that contribute to the economic development of the area. A priority of our team has been to develop deeper relationships with the drivers of development.
Starting with the Digital Marketing Bootcamp and continuing with the DER3 program, our staff have engaged regional partners with great success. These partners include Municipal Economic Development Departments, Chambers of Commerce, the Community Futures Network and local entrepreneurs.
A key aspect of developing these relationships has been traveling to the various communities that these organizations work in, and although COVID-19 restrictions have reduced our ability to do this, we were able to make a trip along Highway 16 towards Prince Rupert three times in the last two years. During these trips, we connected with the staff of these organizations to teach them about our services and tell them about the direction the society is taking, as well as discussing local issues with them to understand the environment better.
Plans were made to make a fourth trip at the end of October, but new COVID-19 restrictions were enacted and staff ultimately decided to cancel the trip out of an abundance of caution and respect for the communities our partners work in.
Northern Investor Network
At the beginning of 2020, ICS-Hubspace and the City of Prince George’s Economic Development Department began to talk to high net worth individuals from Northern B.C. to develop a network of local Investors.
Presently, 30 individuals have joined the network and meetings have been held to understand their interests and risk profiles. This profiling work continues and the first meetings between our clients and local Investors took place in the fall of 2020.
Additionally, six firms have held discussions with members of this group, and several investments have been made. (These amounts are included in the totals of capital attracted, cited above.)
Exporting Engineering Services to India
In August 2020 the BC Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation approached ICS-Hubspace about connecting with Northern engineering and environmental service companies to explore opportunities to export their services to India.
In collaboration with Tim Thomas, the local Export Advisor with the Export Navigator Program, Our team connected with a number of firms throughout northern BC and created profiles on their areas of expertise.
The Ministry and its office in India hosted an information session with all the firms that had been located around the Province and from that point, three Northern Firms indicated their interest in proceeding. These firms were connected with the Indian State-Owned Infrastructure developer, WAPCOS, to talk about potential partnerships.
All firms are currently in discussions with Indian proponents, and additional Indian initiatives have been approaching them about the potential for more business.
As an approved incubator, ICS – Hubspace will support and house participating entrepreneurs and guide them through the process of commercialization of their product. This designation sets the stage for our organization to participate in other partnerships with MITACS, UNBC and CNC. Conversations around initiatives such as a tech business development effort are now including our organization as a matter of course.
YELL Canada & the iCubed Summit
The Northern Chapter, headed up by Sagar Saxena, believes very strongly that through this program not only can they increase entrepreneurial literacy among our youth, but that this will promote economic growth by showing these young people that they can stay in the North and pursue their dreams. We see this work as integral to growing capacity in our communities. Along with the work that the YELL team has done in Northern B.C., they have created the iCubed Summit to kickstart and expose the young entrepreneurs of the area to innovative businesses and help grow their entrepreneurial mindset.
Our Organization has provided meeting space for the YELL team since 2019 as our contribution to their endeavours and has participated in the iCubed Summits annual round table as well as judging their pitch competition. For the 2022 summit, we will be a bronze-level sponsor and our financial contribution will be put towards the purchase of Hats for all the participants. The hats will feature art designed by an Indigenous Young person from Haida Gwaii and will feature a QR code with ICS-Hubspace’s logo on the back that will direct them to our website showcasing our services and how we can help them launch their business ideas.
As YELL has expanded its programming into multiple communities throughout the North, the workload has increased and in the fall of 2021, they approached us to partner with them to employ one of our Interns to be their Community Development Manager. Heidi Booth, who started as a MITACS Business Strategy Intern and then was employed through a Canada Summer Jobs grant, has taken this role on. She is very passionate about the work that they are doing and was very excited at the opportunity to start working with the YELL team, and more broadly, within the economic development field which she hopes to pursue as a career after her graduation in 2022.
Auroralinx – The Prince George Technology Group
Auroralinx – The Prince George Technology Group (PGTG) was formed as a group of tech professionals and students who were interested in discussing trends in their industry and influencing the curriculum of schools in Northern B.C.
In previous years, our organization offered the co-working space as a meeting venue.
In the spring of 2021, discussions began on how to formalize the relationship between these organizations. After conducting a market study and member survey, the PGTG has expressed interest in incorporating as a society and co-locating within the ICS-Hubspace building.
Their focus is to remain on networking and influencing curriculum and they intend to refer any members who are interested in pursuing technology-centered economic opportunities to us. Talks are ongoing and likely to conclude in early 2022.
Pocketed – Frictionless Grant Platform
Pocketed is a platform that was created to help match entrepreneurs and businesses with grant funding that is available. The founders of this venture were participants in the Venture Accelerator Program through our sister accelerator at the University of British Columbia.
A connection was made between our team and Pocketed by Ming Yan, the society’s Program Manager at Innovate BC. Upon meeting with the founders of the venture and participating in the beta phase, our staff saw the immense potential in the platform and signed on to be a promotional partner.
This has been a very useful tool and significantly reduced the amount of time the DER3 team spent looking for grants for its clients. To date, 10 clients have successfully used the platform to get grants of some sort and it has officially opened to the public.
Prince George Community Foundation
In the summer of 2021, after our organization relocated from 3rd and Quebec street to their new 7th Avenue location, the management team was approached by the Prince George Community Foundation who expressed an interest in co-locating within our new location.
After discussions, a contract was finalized and they agreed to rent three offices on the other side of the building in Unit #102 so that they had access to the front door and signage at 7th Avenue.
BC Summer Games Society
In the fall of 2021, ICS-Hubspace was approached by the B.C. Summer Games Society for a short-term rental of office space while their longer-term lease was being prepared.
ICS-Hubspace agreed to donate the space for the months of November and December and will be considered a sponsor of the upcoming summer games which will be held in Prince George, B.C., from July 21 to 24, 2022.
Business Excellence Award Nomination.
In October 2021, the Prince George Chamber of Commerce hosted their Business Excellence Awards which is the biggest event the Chamber hosts each year. The Business Excellence Awards are an opportunity to recognize the hardworking businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations that make our community better.
Entrepreneurial spirit, leadership and community pride were celebrated during the 36th Annual Business Excellence Awards on October 15, 2021. ICS-Hubspace was nominated for two award categories: the Support PG Award and the Top Non-Profit/Charity Award.
The Support PG Award recognizes organizations or businesses that commit to purchasing through local and provincial suppliers. They donate time, money, social capital and marketing support for community causes. They constantly display community pride through volunteerism, sharing social media posts, supporting charities and important City of Prince George initiatives.
The Top Non-Profit/Charity Award recognizes organizations that have shown excellence in delivering projects, services and/or events that give back to the community. Their efforts contribute to the social and cultural well-being of Prince George and align with their organizational mission.
ICS-Hubspace was then selected by a committee as a finalist in the Top Non-Profit/Charity Award category along with the Aboriginal Business Development Centre, Kyle’s Kindness, and the Prince George Community Foundation which, in the end, was awarded the title of Top Non-Profit/Charity 2021.
We congratulate the Prince George Community Foundation who is a tenant at ICS-Hubspace on their achievement and well-deserved recognition.
Shortly after the awards ceremony, the Foundation announced that their 25th Anniversary Campaign, which was launched in February, has raised a total of $1,736,354.00 CAD to help support the community.
Community service and support play an important role at ICS- Hubspace. Individual Directors on the Board and Staff are actively involved in the community by serving nonprofit boards, volunteering their time, fundraising for causes, and donating resources.
Representing the society, staff has been participating in a variety of community services and projects.
Besides supporting community fundraisings like the Winter Warm-Up and Big Squeeze (Big Brothers Big Sisters), Smile Cookies (Tim Hortons), and the BBQ Smokies (United Way NBC), the team participated in the annual Spring Clean by REAPS. Together with staff from Community Futures Fraser Fort George and the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, we helped clean the neighbourhood between Vancouver/Victoria Street and 4th/9th Avenue picking up trash.
ICS-Hubspace generously donated the boardroom to the United Way of Northern B.C. to conduct interviews and currently offers a complimentary office in Unit #102 to the BC Summer Games Society.
Throughout the year, we share community groups and projects on our social media channels and do shout-outs to local businesses and organizations. ICS-Hubspace has supported campaigns like #supportPG, #HolidayPG, Every Child Matters, Diversity and Acceptance, and Pride Month by showing their respective colours in the office and on our social media channels.
We wouldn’t be where we are today without the generous support of our sponsors.