The recent Audacity YQR movement in Regina has taken the city by storm. The movement was started by leading local entrepreneurs, and what began as a grassroots effort has evolved into a fully-fledged wave of entrepreneurial pride in Saskatchewan’s capital city. However, while the movement has stirred growing excitement, for many the question remains: what is Audacity YQR anyway?
In fact, the Audacity YQR movement is one overarching piece of a larger strategy created by Economic Development Regina to fuel and foster entrepreneurship in the Greater Regina Area. In collaboration with the Council for Entrpreneurship Growth, six key objectives were identified for 2018.
A "No Wrong-Door" Coordination System
While Regina has seen a recent rise in small business start-ups, many entrepreneurs don’t know where to begin. The goal of a no wrong-door system is to ensure that no matter an entrepreneur’s first point of contact, be it a business planning service, a bank, or an incubator, they will quickly and easily be directed to the start-up services needed at their specific point in their small business journey. SquareOne, a business service partnership between Economic Development Regina and Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA), is making progress towards this goal with its SK Business Grid. The Grid is a searchable directory of service providers, government agencies and private businesses that specialize in helping Saskatchewan entrepreneurs.
Access to Incubator and Accelerator spaces
In recent years Regina has followed closely in the footsteps of other major urban centers by embracing innovative co-working and incubator spaces, such as the new Conexus Credit Union incubator set to open at the College Avenue campus in 2020. EDR’s goal is to further encourage and support these types of spaces to harness the tremendous potential for mentorship and collaboration.
“We actually moved our plans up by a year or two,” said Conexus CEO Eric Dillon. “There’s just been this really cool momentum in the community and we wanted to capitalize on it and do our part.”
What sets Regina apart from other major cities is an intense sense of community spirit. Another goal of the entrepreneurship strategy is to leverage the accessibility of successful business leaders in Regina and connect them with budding entrepreneurs. Luckily, this has already been occurring organically for years.
"There's two degrees of separation in Regina,” said Jeff Boutilier, President and Chief Strategist at Ascent Strategy. “What we’ve found is that not only is it easy to get in touch with the people that you want to meet, it’s easy to get them to actually sit down with you. And when you do, they want to help you. The community is really supportive."
Aligning Programs to Serve Indigenous Entrepreneurs
Indigenous start-ups represent explosive economic potential. A major element of the entrepreneurship strategy is ensuring business support programs in the city are functionally and culturally tailored to the needs of these indigenous small business owners. Work has already begun to work alongside Indigenous stakeholder groups like FHQ Developments, the economic development corporation for the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council.
If you look at the statistics around entrepreneurship, First Nations are some of the fastest growing,” said Thomas Benjoe, President and CEO of FHQ. “So being a part of some of the bigger strategies that are happening in the urban centres is really important for us.
Access to Capital
Securing start-up capital is a major challenge for any new business. EDR’s entrepreneurship strategy aims to pair entrepreneurs with investors by creating and growing a powerful investment network in Regina. This is pivotal to ensuring start-ups have access to the funding they need to grow quickly at scale.
“Investing in start-ups and high-growth companies is crucial to promote innovation and economic growth,” said Evelyn Cerda, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Capital Network. Connecting investors to entrepreneurs, provides not only access to capital, but also expertise and networks to help the entrepreneur grow their business.”
The sixth and final initiative is where the Audacity YQR movement comes into play. One piece that seemed to be missing in Regina’s thriving small business scene was an unabashed recognition and celebration of the entrepreneurial success stories. The Audacity movement seeks to rectify this by those in the community who were courageous enough to take the risk and follow their dreams. At the same time, the movement encourages everyone in Regina to embrace a culture of boldness in their everyday lives.
Local companies have begun to heed the call. District Brewing and Rebellion Brewing in Regina have each released an Audacity YQR-themed beer, with the proceeds being directed towards supporting entrepreneurship. There seems to be no limit to the potential for partnerships with other local businesses in the future. The culmination of community spirit and collaboration has made Regina a truly Audacious city, and an ideal place to start a business.
“There’s this real sense that it’s not about getting your slice of the pie,” Boutilier said, “it’s really about growing that pie.”