Sooke Incubator and Makerspace for Art, Technology and Food
“Where art meets science and commerce”
Sooke is a dynamic small community on the outskirts of Victoria, British Columbia. It has a history of arts and culture that started with the First Nations who thrived on its land and named it “Sooke” which means “Where the Rain Forest Meets the Sea”. Because of the relatively warm weather and bountifulness of food, these people had more time to work with their minds and hands and create works of art and culture. Sooke is the sunniest and warmest location in all of Canada, and sits on the Sooke Basin near the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island, which is covered in rain forest. Salmon swim in its sea and rivers, and nature abounds in this lovely land on the hill that offers a daily glimpse of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains just across the strait in Washington State. Sooke had a resource-based economy driven by logging and commercial fishing. However, it has steadily built up its base of arts and tourism, and now is poised to join the idea economy of the Third Wave. Wikipedia has an entry for Sooke that certainly does not do it justice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sooke,_British_Columbia. I welcome more input here on this post and proposal from the people of Sooke for a more elaborate description of its history and character. I can say though that Sooke is a friendly community, one that well situated for families. Its a great place to grow up and get one’s hand’s dirty being outside fishing and hiking and biking as former NHL player Cam McIntyre expressed. As a Canadian small town its proud of its ice hockey and fastball as well, and Sooke children are encouraged athletically and artistically. The First Nations are influential and the town is tightly interwoven with her lands and people, who seem to live in harmony. The opportunity for further expansion of this humanity and the potential of Sooke as a region of creative growth and economic development is apparent, only limited by the imagination and effort of the people of Sooke.
The vision is that SookeSpace will set the standard for small community mixed incubation to be emulated by others around the globe. These organizations will not only explode creativity and new innovative products, services, and organizations, but will balance sustainability with economic growth and play a role in alleviating poverty.
Centrally located in Sooke, the Sooke Incubator and Makerspace for Art and Technology “SookeSpace” will be a multi-purpose facility dedicated to creativity and new ventures. For lack of a better word I have coined this “Mixed Incubation”. It will be a place to just make things, as well as start new businesses or try to make business out of what is created. The organization will be structured as a non-profit and its core mission will be experiential education that results in wealth creation for the greater Sooke region. It will serve the community through mentorship, business assistance, and resources for making things and experimenting.
The incubator is planned for approximately 40,000 square feet and will be centrally located. We will either build a new facility or acquiring an existing one. Currently we are in early stage talks with a local property owner about acquiring buildings and land currently used for a different purpose but which is synergistic with ours. This property could serve as the first hub with future construction occurring on that particular property, and the possibility of expansion into the “city core”. The long term vision is to build out an extensive incubation hub that will be much larger in terms of space and activities around the following incubation and maker themes:
-Film and Video
Sooke already has a tradition and an assemblage of musicians, sculptors, painters, filmakers and artist entrepreneurs including Shanna Hamilton of Kid’s Art Studio.
and Simon Game of Pioneer Filworks in Sooke
*Social organization incubation
-Community organizations (local)
-Global organizations of care (distance causes)
Technology incubation will be a key part of the incubator. We will offer equipment and services in addition to mentorship. Some of the spaces of focus will be:
-Internet of things
In particular we have an interest in the tourism, travel, and hospitality spaces, as well as elearning and education.
Kitchen Incubator for Culinary Arts
We will start with a simple food kitchen incubator in Sooke. The longer term vision is to build a more complete facility with capital-intensive food processing equipment. My vision is to eventually operate a food incubator that rivals the Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada http://www.foodtechcanada.ca/members/our_members/food_processing_development_centre/
*Aspiring chefs (perhaps seeking celebrity status)
*Specialty food startups
-Open source hardware creations
-Eco tourism including new lodging products such as eco-hostels
-Recreational businesses eg mountain biking, surfing, hiking, and so forth
-Niche sports opportunities, such as a potential new ice hockey prep school for Sooke
-New sport creations or importations (X-type games as an example of the former, Irish hurling the latter)
-Specialty agriculture. For example, tea farming is an emerging opportunity on Vancouver Island
-Herbs and others
Building partnerships with local community organizations including government and universities is an essential piece of our strategy.
Universities and Colleges (currently being approached)
*West Coast Adventure College
*Royal Roads University (RRU): Eric C. Douglas Center and others
*Vancouver Island University (VIU)
*The University of Victoria
*Junior High and High Schools and Home Schools: We are interested in working with partners to deliver hand-on learning in art and information technology, as well as teaching entrepreneurship.
*Sooke Chamber of Commerce: The Sooke Chamber of Commerce will be a key partner as many of our activities will overlap. We will pursue opportunities together and seek to avoid replication of efforts accross organizations.
*The District of Sooke. Local government will be a strategic partner as we seek community-oriented goals that will benefit the people of Sooke through education, creativity, and economic opportunities.
*T’Souke Nation: We will seek to build a strong partnership with the T’Souke Nation in Sooke as well as other First Nations including the Pacheedaht First Nation in Port Renfrew.
Local Artists and Arts-related groups. We will be reaching out to involve local artists as they are core to our community mission and we seek to help them monetize their businesses and become self-sustaining.
Tectoria and ViaTech. An obvious partnership for the Sooke Incubator, we’ll see synergy with these organizations that help grow the technology industry in the Greater Victoria Area.
Local Sooke Firms: We are in talks with a partnership with the Geek Shop in Sooke for the hosting of a website and database, and later the possible provision of serves and high speed internet access.
Creative cities and townships: Such as Ashland, Oregon
Telecoms: We intend partnering with players such as Telus in order to assure that Sooke has access to great amounts of bandwidth through fiber optic cabling
Thinkers and Academics: Such as Dr. Henry Etzkowitz, Dr. Richard Florida, Alexis Ohanian and Dave McClure. We will invite them and talk to them while picking their brains for ideas and opportunities.
Incubators of Art, Technology of Food afar: We want to learn from others. Examples include Techcu.be in Edinburgh, RPI’s incubator, Calgary’s new arts incubator, and Edmonton’s Agri food processing incubator.
Educational institutions of higher learning will provide us with opportunities to partner for niche incubation programmes for students and faculty, deal flow in terms of early stage startups. As education providers they are essential to our core mission and we will avoid replication of activities where possible.
SD62’s high schools and junior high schools are target partners as well for we an influence future creators and entrepreneurs. For example, we intend on securing resources for Arduino boards and personal computers so that we can help teach high school and even junior high school students how to write code and make cool things. Another partner might deliver fine arts training in painting and mask-making. We’ll lend our space and help organize these after-school and during school programmes and help coordinate.
First Nations are key partnerships as well. We will seek to build new business ventures together and create rewarding new jobs for the peoples of the First Nations, and combine our resources to leverage opportunities. Moreover SookeSpace will mine old knowledge in the creation of new art, products, services and practices. Our efforts will help the First Nations preserve old culture and (we hope) heal through the process of human creativity across the boundaries of art and science, while creating wealth for all of the citizens of Sooke. As a concrete example we are intrigued by T’Souke Nation’s upcoming wasabi greenhouse. Horticulture is one area of incubation where we might work together for new value creation.
Local government will be a key partner. Our main focus is to create a grassroots economic development engine that will foster new businesses in the community that will grow, create jobs, export benefits, and create a great deal of wealth over the next 10 years. Our intention is nothing less than to create a model of mixed incubation that will set a new standard not only in Canada but throughout the world. The results of our efforts will cause an in-migration of new peoples of different backgrounds and from different parts of the planet, but that share a couple of things in common: the desire to create and grow new organizations. This will propel to the District of Sooke to international recognition as an exemplar model of small local government and economic development.
As an example we would consider a partnership to help house a new public library, since education, learning and access to knowledge old and new is essential to our mission. We will explore best practices of local government – incubator relationships and make further proposals in the future as well.
Founding Team Member
Michael Clouser is a serial entrepreneur and former venture capitalist in Silicon Valley who has both co-founded and led multiple incubators in addition to other creative ventures. He was the CEO of Student Agencies, Inc. that is affiliated with Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and is the co-founder of Techcu.be, a new and successful incubator that is mixed with arts incubation in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. He is also an entrepreneurship educator who has taught at leading universities in the areas of hospitality, business, technology and design. Michael is Associate Faculty at RRU and served as a consultant on an incubation, entrepreneurial risk capital and entrepreneur attraction project for the Vancouver Island institution. His educational accomplishments include a BS from the Cornell Hotel School, and MBA from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at the same. He earned MSc (innovation and entrepreneurship) from the University of Edinburgh with a PhD from the same in progress.
SookSpace is seeking team members, student interns, and other interested partners. If you have a passion for this vision and to see SookeSpace realized, please do get in touch. The organization welcomes people from a variety of backgrounds, interests, and parts of the world.
There is much to say about the design of the space as it crucial to optimal incubation, interaction, and creativity. I’ll write more on this later. But crucial will be sustainable design and operations, as well as common space for the community that will facilitate interactions between entrepreneurs, artists, makers, hackers, telecommuters, and others and spur the creation of new products, services, innovations, and community relationships.
To make this vision a reality we will need to access to resources. We are seeking funding from governmental organizations, foundations, philanthropists and impact investors. Depending on whether or not this is a new build facility or an acquisition, our initial needs will be over $5 million and closer to $10 million. We have not yet started soliciting for contributions at this stage and will do so once a more formal proposal is completed.
In addition we need capital intensive items such as equipment, computers, furniture, and foodservice equipment. Donations of supplies are appreciated as well.