Thursday, December 1, 2011

AssentWorks: The first 30 days

As we approach the end of the first 30 days of AssentWorks and look toward years of growing new opportunities in Manitoba, we thought we’d give everyone an update of the progress we have made over such a short time.

Building to the launch
Starting back in June, volunteers started working full steam ahead on all aspects of AssentWorks. From creating the draft business plans, web site, approaching founding sponsors to helping put up walls and haul in equipment, it was a non-stop trek to get things ready.

Seven days before the launch date, a handful of folks worked literally 24x7 to get the space ready for the Grand Opening. Equipment was arriving daily all week long, requiring folks to install, configure and test machines while others were trouble shooting layout issues, HVAC challenges and constant cleaning in an effort to reduce the amount of dust from the facility build process.

My favorite surprise was at 9:30pm on the evening before the Grand Opening, Princess Auto was able to get us our first large equipment donation. In an extremely brief discussion, we all haggled whether or not we were going to have time to get everything picked up and in-place before the morning. By 11pm we were back in the space putting together some amazing equipment from Princess Auto, including their new professional line of tools, Pro Point, which are some of the most solid tools I have ever seen! By 2am most folks had just about done all that could be dealt with, yet Colin Stanners and some of the other night owls continued on working all night on our networking and access control systems.

Our big day
Barely a handful of hours after we had left the space, we were back and prepping for the opening. The place was spotless, with our self-guided tour setup, displays of the different uses and products each machine could produce spread out across the different facility tour stops. We were ready for anyone who would come, but at 9:30am, just half an hour before we started, it was suddenly so quiet after weeks of flurried activity, we wondered if anyone would come.

Then just as soon as the activity had come to a standstill, people started to arrive and the Grand Opening was underway.  The morning events included our big sponsor and media launch, with folks from all over the province ready to hear about our mission and see the beginnings of our beta facility.  We had great representation from all walks of the economic community in Manitoba. From government, education and large Manitoban industry to folks from in other provinces who came to see what exactly was going on in downtown Winnipeg.

Over seventy attendees listened to our morning launch discussion where we highlighted the goals of AssentWorks and the mission of our Beta Facility. We took a moment to recognize our amazing founding sponsors, Princess Auto, The Eurkea Project and Seccuris, as well as the thirty plus companies and fifty plus individuals who made the Grand Opening possible. The morning event wrapped up with CBC conducting an interview with several folks involved with the space, from members and potential members to the volunteers and some of the directors. Once the filming wrapped up a break was taken to rest and reset before the afternoon open house.

The first of many open houses
The afternoon of the Grand Opening was dedicated to an open house for everyone to come see the facility and meet the people behind the building of the facility. From 4 till 10pm we hosted over 200 folks, signed up several new members and met a lot of great people.

We received a lot of positive feedback on a number of fronts, but one of our favorite compliments was the self-guided tour. The nine-stop tour included write-ups, examples and demonstrations of our equipment and capabilities which allowed anyone to come off the street and get a good perspective on not only the physical space, but the intent behind the relationships we are trying to build in our local communities.

The day ended as a huge success and for the volunteers who made it possible, a great start to such an incredible journey.

The first few weeks: Growing our Community
The week after the Grand Opening was filled with dozens of requests for tours and talks. From a volunteer perspective we spent some time to step back and ask ourselves if our priorities are in the right areas. Pacing of our efforts over the next several weeks; realizing that changing our priorities from making an aesthetically pleasing grand opening to starting a real, functional and supportive community are two very different things.

At the weekly Tuesday night community meeting, which was our first official meeting, we discussed what the next thirty days of activities would look like, from getting the machines active and the facility properly functioning to approaching new sponsors and members in order to meet our startup goals. It became obvious pretty quickly we would need to further expand the breadth and depth to which volunteers were involved in order to really get things moving. Everyone was and is up to the challenge.

The next few months: Building for Manitoban success
As our great team of volunteers takes the reigns of AssentWorks and starts to drive out our development activities over the next few months, you’ll see focuses on several areas.

One critical activity that will continue on a regular basis is the introduction of different communities to the AssentWorks Beta facility. From entrepreneurial groups and educational institutions to potential sponsors and government supporters, we’ll be coordinating open houses and special tours on a regular basis to get the word out.

Another focus we will grow is our vocalization of our mandate and mission across the Manitoban and Canadian landscape. We are an industry driven non-profit organization built to grow new entrepreneurial opportunities in Manitoba. In order to achieve our goals around entrepreneurial growth, new business development and the establishment of new business ideas in Manitoba, we are committed to work with the wider community of Manitoba IDEA enablers, such as the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Winnipeg, Canadian Manufactures & Exporters, the Industrial Technology Center, Red River Community College, our provincial universities and numerous other organizations to understand how AssentWorks can best assist Manitobans and create real growth for us all.

Last but not least will be the continued development of new capabilities and education opportunities available at AssentWorks. Early in the new year we will be offering classes on how to use our different machinery and create specific projects at the space, including hosting business and creative competitions at the space.

If you’re interested in hearing more about AssentWorks or would like to become involved, check out our website at or come out and attend a community meeting on Tuesday nights at 7pm on the 3rd floor of 125 Adelaide St.

Again, a HUGE thanks to everyone who has supported us so far, looking forward to all the good things to come!

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