Entrepreneurship involves taking risks, and local clothing designer Myles Genido realized it was time to stick his neck out.
Until now, the four-year-old streetwear-clothing company he and Justin Cansino founded, called Mighty Malicious X Delicious, had been operating as a part-time, online business.
But earlier this year, the opportunity arose to participate in the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone's Launch It! Retail Incubator program. The program gives young entrepreneurs a chance to operate a pop-up store for three months in a prominent, rent-free, downtown location.
The idea is to let them gain first-hand experience at operating a bricks-and-mortar store, and to gauge the public's response. The hope is they'll open a permanent downtown store.
To take full advantage of the opportunity, Genido decided to take a three-month, unpaid leave from his job as production manager for Vantage Studios & Print Shop to work full time in their pop-up store in the Portage Place Shopping Centre.
He admitted at Monday's official store launch it was a little unnerving to give up three months of salary with no guarantee of success.
"But you've got to take those risks if you want to grow your business, right?" he asked.
Their clothing store is one of three fledgling businesses sharing a storefront space this summer on the second floor of the mall. The others are Spark Rentals Inc., which rents out lighting and public address equipment for birthday parties, weddings and concerts; and Winnipeg Pass, a one-man operation that sells packages of passes to local attractions and events.
The passes are for museums, festivals, Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball games and outdoor attractions such as FortWhyte Alive. The packages are $59 for children, which gives them passes to 15 events or attractions, and $89 for adults, which gives them passes to 18 events.
Spark Rentals and Winnipeg Pass are also primarily web-based businesses. While Genido and Cansino are hoping their pop-up store evolves into a permanent storefront business, Spark Rentals owner Sinan Leylek and Winnipeg Pass founder Enver Naidoo said they're taking a wait-and-see approach.
"I'm trying to determine what's the best avenue — whether it's just a web-only business, or whether having a physical store is also important to the customer," Leylek explained.
Naidoo has a similar story. Right now he sells his pass packages through his website and at a number of local sites, including The Forks, the University of Manitoba and Red River College.
He said he's also curious to see if having a storefront location will enable him to sell a lot more packages.
"That's something I'm going to explore over the next three months."
Jason Syvixay, managing director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, said in addition to rent-free space, the program provides participants with connections to support services that can help them with everything from how to access grants to how to develop an effective business and marketing plan.
Syvixay said there were 15 applicants for the second edition of the program, which started last year as a pilot project and had seven retailers sharing space in the same Portage Place location.
He said the BIZ hopes to find suitable downtown locations for some of this year's other applicants.
Updated on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 8:22 AM CDT: Replaces photo