Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone officials don't have to go far to check up on the latest participant in the BIZ's retail incubator program.
That's because the latest Launch It participant — a new branding agency called Brandish — has set up shop on the second floor of the BIZ office at 426 Portage Ave.
BIZ managing director Jason Syvixay said the location made sense because Brandish owners Derek Elliott and Lee Waltham didn't need a lot of space. Being a service-oriented business, rather than a retail outlet, it also didn't need to be in a highly visible location such as the Portage Place Shopping Centre, where the three previous groups of Launch It participants were housed.
Elliott said he and Waltham like the location because they can use the BIZ's boardroom for meetings with clients. They'll also be working closely with the BIZ over the next year on a project, he added.
The Launch It program provides young entrepreneurs who are interested in opening a store or office in the downtown with an opportunity to test the market.
In addition to providing them with free space, usually for a three-month period, the program offers workshops and seminars on how to better manage and grow their business, and pairs them with a mentor to provide additional help and guidance. The hope is they'll eventually open their own store or office in the downtown.
Elliott, who has been working in the branding and marketing industry for nearly three years, moved back to Winnipeg last fall to join Waltham in launching Brandish.
Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, said the two were perfect candidates for the Launch It program.
"Young people are starting to migrate out of our province at alarming rates, but we know that they want to stay and invest in our city," he said. "With the right tools, incentives and support, we can nurture budding startups and creative industries and keep youth and their talents downtown."
Brandish is the 12th participant in the two-year-old Launch It program.