StartUp Canada started up Monday in Prince George with a crowded conference at UNBC.
The national do-it-yourself business roadshow is working to inspire local entrepreneurs and stir the pot of knowledge available to this area's business community.
The event began with a panel of four successful Prince George business owners telling their own stories and fielding questions -- Brian Fehr of BID Group, Cathy Mackay of EDI-Environmental Dynamics, Will Cadell of Spark Geo and Darby Kreitz of AllNorth Consultants.
Some of the advice ranged from Fehr warning against analysis paralysis - so much due diligence and study that you lose your business momentum. Kreitz advised to keep an open mind in business, with mental agility and creativity leading your choices rather then burying your head in the numbers and figures. Fehr added that the foundation to starting up a new business was to launch from a small-scale operational version, as opposed to formulating a cold business plan to convince a bank to lend you the start-up capital. It should already be in motion.
Cadell, originally from Scotland, said Prince George was a realistic place to start up a new business or base a preexisting one. In his case, the market conditions are favourable and the lifestyle conditions are unparalleled.
"I can ski eight months of the year, and you can't," was his mock conversation with the rest of the business world. He moved here from Scotland in 2000 to run his tech-based company and here he remains. "I choose to live in Prince George every couple of months, when I get asked to move somewhere else...The lifestyle is amazing."
Mackay said the general attitude projected by Prince George residents out into the world has a lot to do with its future business fortunes. The self esteem of a city plays a role in who wants to come invest their life and business endeavours.
"I have a little bit of passion about Prince George. It has come a long way," she said. "The university being here changed things. Reputation and attitude and perception towards Prince George is the most effective thing to move forward, for attracting and retaining investors. It's not that we need more services or businesses, per se, it is doing more marketing of Prince George."
With his tongue in cheek, Fehr said he didn't want more people moving to the area. He lives in Vanderhoof but spends a lot of time in Vancouver and all over the world, where traffic and choked infrastructure and rat race dominate. Here, the living is good and the lifestyle is attractive.
"On a personal level, it is one of the very hardest communities in which to live [due to transportation distances], so I own my own plane," said Kreitz. "But that speaks even more to why I live here. I couldn't imagine pulling my kids away from this area. Where else can you be at a dance studio, go swimming, play soccer, go to the hockey rink all within a couple of blocks?"
Following the discussion, the panelists and moderator Shauna Harper dispersed among the tables for small group discussions aimed at key business issues like entrepreneurial support, the role of industry, celebration and recognition of the business community, retention, culture and youth.
"It is very encouraging to see so many young people here," said Renata King, one of the event's local organizers with Northern Development Initiative Trust. "We have great participation here from UNBC and CNC and that is the demographic that is really pushing the entrepreneurial spirit and needs to have the idea of owning your own business promoted as a worthy career option."