An excellent opportunity for small businesses is once again available at the Whitecourt & District Chamber of Commerce Business Centre. Purchased a few years ago, the building is a multi-office space giving small-scale entrepreneurs the chance to spread their wings in an inclusive, business-friendly environment supportive of their success.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
If you have a small business taking over your basement or garage, or maybe you are sharing a space with another company but want to try things out on your own, the Whitecourt & District Chamber of Commerce might be able to help. In 2018, when the Chamber membership agreed to purchase the Business Centre at 4907 52 Avenue, kitty-corner to the Whitecourt Library, the goal was two-fold. “Not only did we want to have a permanent home for the Chamber, but we also wanted to have a facility that was very business-friendly and business-focused that could target small businesses, fit for a small scale operation,” explained Executive Director Dana Severson.
The space features twelve offices of varying sizes and several shared rooms to give new businesses the best shot possible. “A lot of our tenants that come through, this is their first commercial home for their business. They may have been a brand new start-up, or they may have been a business that was operational for a little while, and this is their first venture out on their own claiming a space for themselves.”
Severson said that the Chamber intentionally keeps things attractive from an inclusive and rental rate standpoint to provide the best possible environment for success. “There are many start-up costs that can make a storefront or office space seem overwhelming or unattainable. By keeping rental costs low and inclusive, there are no surprise costs and nothing that’s going to catch them off guard. It’s a manageable space for them that has a fairly steady flow of traffic through the building complimentary of all the other businesses that are also in operation here.”
Smaller businesses that only need one or two offices can utilize other spaces in the building. “Boardrooms are available for free for any of the tenants in the building. That allows them to have a collaborative meeting space that, again, isn’t any extra cost or offsite. Our building is in a great location downtown and has great parking on site too.”
In purchasing the building, the Chamber hoped to have a combination of tenants, both long-term and short-term. “We want to see ones that are successful and who outgrow their small space and need to take up residence somewhere larger. Then we start the cycle again by bringing in someone fresh and building them up and allowing them to experience success for their business,” said Severson.
She said that seeing businesses enter at the beginning stages and leave months later needing a more significant footprint is a great feeling. “We are fortunate enough to have the Chamber on site. It’s like a small community of businesses in the space. There’s the opportunity for some interaction and conversation and to be a sounding board for some business owners. We have so many available business supports that we partner with and do projects at any given time, so having that ability to refer them to other places gives them more tools to succeed and grow. It’s not just a space. It’s the connectivity.”
There are two vacancies in the space as of December 1. “One is a single office space, just around 150 square feet, and the other is an office and a half, around 200 square foot size. These offices are perfect for professional services or personal care services. Light retail would be good too, as would anything financial or architecture or design-related, especially with the boardroom available to use,” said Severson.
“For us to lose tenants because they are doing so well at what they set out to do is bittersweet, but it’s the best problem to have as a building owner and as a Chamber of Commerce. We look forward to welcoming in new tenants.” There is a lawyer, accountant, cellphone retail, massage therapy, real estate, social support, recreational retail, and the Chamber office currently within the building.
Severson encourages those interested to connect with the Chamber of Commerce and plan to see the space. “Get a visual as to what the potential of your operations could look like within the space and discuss some initial budgetary numbers to make sure that those costs are factored into your business plan and are within reach for you.” For those who do not have a business plan yet, Severson recommends talking to Community Futures Yellowhead East first. “They offer excellent resources in business plan development and business coaching. They really help give a well-rounded thought to the growth and direction of a business.” Call the Whitecourt & District Chamber of Commerce at 780-778-5363 or email email@example.com for more information.
This item is reprinted with permission from Whitecourt Press, Whitecourt, Alberta.