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I Have the Best Business Idea, But I Don't Know the Right People!

The Prince of Wales also knows these best-kept secrets.

Last year, Prince Charles made a royal visit to Manitoba. Aside from feeding Hudson at the zoo and testing flight patterns of paper airplanes, he made a stopover at one of the most innovative new zones in Winnipeg, which also happened to be one of the city's best-kept secrets. This visit to "Innovation Alley" highlighted the burgeoning entrepreneur community in the city, but if the Prince returned now he'd see what a difference a year makes. The secret is out.

Innovation Alley has been ramping up with their "community of innovators, startups and artists in downtown Winnipeg's West Exchange District." We've written about it before (here and here), so if it's no longer a secret then what else do you need to know?

Like every business professional knows, it takes a village to grow a business. Innovation Alley is your village when you feel like you've been running solo across the prairies. Consider this community to be "the place" to go when you've got a great business idea. Similar minds and creative resources are at your disposal.

You'll soon know people that can help you in every aspect of your business. Get their support and guidance in multiple ways shown below.

Startup Winnipeg is considered to be the first step in the development of ideas and prototypes into commercial products and new businesses. They are a non-profit, volunteer-run business that is run through sponsorships, private industry and community support, partner organizations and Government support.

Startup Winnipeg is a combination of two organizations; AssentWorks and Ramp Up Manitoba. Their ultimate goal is to help with a multitude of challenges that an entrepreneur faces along their business journey. 

Every entrepreneur faces similar challenges, so you're not alone. Do these sound familiar?

  • Thinking through a new concept, and then trying to figure out how you'll explain it to others as a real business idea and get validation from the business community
  • Creating the actual invention, but then not being sure what other skills you'll need to take your idea to the next step
  • Figuring out the costs of building a prototype of your idea — then wondering how the heck you'll raise the funds and overcome all the technical barriers of prototyping

No problem. We've all been there, and the Innovation Alley community can help you through each of these.

Ramp Up Manitoba is a community of support through meetups and applied learning events called Ramp Up Weekends. They also offer the ability to connect you with professional partnerships and other startups, which is a low barrier way to execute your ideas.

They help you to craft your idea and learn how to get better at explaining your concepts through events like Pitch'Day. You can pitch your business idea in a contest setting, and then collaborate on pitches with other attendees. It's a fast-paced weekend with a great following. 

See Related: Does Your Business Need a Pitch Person?

AssentWorks is a non-profit prototyping environment, also known as a "makerspace" and tech workshop. It is a collaborative community of makers, entrepreneurs and skilled people who all have connections to different business development resources. If you need to make a prototype, this is the place to go.

In fact, AssentWorks is one of the largest makerspaces in the world. With access to about $2.5 million worth of equipment, members can use any of the 70+ pieces of rapid prototyping equipment. Membership to AssentWorks is also pretty affordable so check out the details found on their website.

Take a tour of the space via the below video. Although a lot has changed since this "flythru" was filmed, you'll get a great sense of the atmosphere of Assentworks. It's filled with creative opportunity!

Equipment is aplenty, with more than can be listed and that's shown in the video — although here's a start:

  • CNC wood room and mill
  • ShopBot 3 and 5 Axis
  • 7 Axis Robot Arm
  • Three laser cutters
  • Textile room
  • Eight 3D Printers (including one that 3D prints in full color!)
  • Metal working and electronic room allowing members to make fully functional circuit boards

 Are you seeing the benefits? Here are three ways that you can participate right now:

1. <Insert Your Name>…Come on Down!

Community Night is a chance to get to meet people in a friendly no-pressure environment. Every Tuesday night beginning at 6 pm the doors are open to the public.

This is also Volunteer Night, and anyone can participate in some pretty cool projects. Tasks include new equipment setup, maintenance, shop restocking and working on special assignments. So if you want to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and see what it's like to be a regular member, check things out first hand.

2. Come meet up at a Meetup!

Since it really is the community of people that makes this such a special group, you should also check out a couple great meetups. Both Assentworks and Ramp Up Manitoba host meetups where you can mix and mingle with like minds. 

Assentworks next gets together on January 20, and keep an eye on new meetup postings.  

Ramp Up Manitoba will be meeting up soon as well, so join their page to get notified of the next event.

3. Tweet tweet!

Of course, what entrepreneurial community isn't complete without some social media action? Check out the tweets below to get you started:


No wonder Innovation Alley was given a royal visit. It's an impressive group, and this entrepreneurial community has had amazing success to date including:

  • Development of 20+ new technologies
  • Launch of 50+ new companies 
  • Creation of 75+ new jobs

Still want to learn more? Watch the below trailer on Innovation Alley and catch the entire documentary that is now available on MTS Ultimate TV; Stories From Home.

Have you participated in an Innovation Alley event or workshop? Share your favourite moments in the comments below and let us know how it's helped take your business idea to the next level!

Marney Stapley

Marney is the Vice President, North Forge Fabrication Lab. The North Forge Fabrication Lab provides access to advanced digital fabrication and prototyping equipment with support from entrepreneurial and innovation communities. In her spare time, she helps to shape one of the world's most respected blogs dedicated entirely to Additive Manufacturing / 3D printing. She is also a volunteer for TEDx Winnipeg as a team member who selects and works with engaging speakers.

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