Entrepreneurs in need of an area to work can now consider a new business incubator in downtown Chatham. SOAR Innovation opened its doors earlier this month inside the former Daily Planet constructing on King Road West.
The non-profit organization offers different options to people looking to take their businesses to the next level. These range from a shared workhouse rented hourly, weekly or monthly to a reserved desk to a private office.
Because this model has already been established in larger cities – including as nearby as Windsor – they expect to see a lot of interest in the concept, SOAR administrator Candice Jeffrey said
Jeffrey said there has also been a gap in Chatham-Kent since The Ground Floor closed. She said that initiative was more of a “networking area,” and SOAR will operate on a larger scale.
The organization was started by Ekagrata Group, an international enterprise capital firm that promotes itself as having a footprint in over 30 countries.
Gaurav Gupta, director of finance and investor companies with SOAR, said being linked with Ekagrata means there are an existing network different types of companies can take advantage of by joining the incubator.
Gupta said the company has invested almost $2.5 million into the constructing and began working on the renovations in February.
The area includes shared desks, sofas, coffee tables, local artwork on the walls, private rooms, a board room, a lounge space with a TV to make presentations, an “innovation room” with dry/erase partitions, and a yoga and meditation room.
In April this year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business ranked Chatham-Kent 119 out of 125 communities on a list of the best places for entrepreneurship in Canada.
Jeffrey, while not referring to that report, said SOAR’s goal is to move Chatham-Kent’s reputation as a retirement community to a place for entrepreneurs.
Gupta said the research they have done has shown most of the local population is older than 45. He said they want to keep young people here “not looking for a job, but rather creating jobs.”
Stuart McFadden, director of economic development for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, said he expects a great “again-and-forth” relationship between SOAR and the municipality.
He noted the organization has the capital necessary to support ideas from entrepreneurs in Chatham-Kent.
SOAR is also a method for entrepreneurs who don’t require a large workplace house to move up a level, said McFadden.