Lending a helping hand

Non-profit prototyping facility established in Winnipeg

  • Kerry Stevenson, one of the three founders of AssentWorks, says high costs of developing prototypes holds 90 per cent of entrepreneurs from proceeding with their ideas. – Dylan Hewlett

Starting the business of your dreams isn’t a simple task, especially when a copious amount of money is needed to sub-contract your prototype or purchase the high-end machinery to manufacture it yourself.

Money can be a quick way to kill an entrepreneur’s dreams, but that’s where Winnipeg’s AssentWorks comes in.

“It could take anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to start a prototype, which kills off about 90 per cent of your entrepreneurs right there,” said Kerry Stevenson, one of the three founders of AssentWorks.

AssentWorks is the first of its kind in Winnipeg. Members have access to the high-end manufacturing equipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a fee ranging from $50 to $125 per month.

“The shop operates like a health club, only instead of treadmills, there’s different equipment, like CNC mills, laser cutters, 3D printers and wood cutters,” Stevenson said.

Adam Palanuk, member of AssentWorks and owner of Seamless Design, heard of the organization through word of mouth.

After a quick search on the web, Palanuk said he “immediately found it interesting,” and registered as a volunteer, helping set up shop before its opening and became a member soon after.

“The challenge is starting off (and) bridging the gap between product design and manufacturing the first prototype,” Palanuk said, noting this is something he believes AssentWorks will help change.

Becoming a member of AssentWorks not only gives members access to the equipment and workspace, but also creates networking opportunities. Members have a chance to discuss projects one on one, or in a group setting during AssentWorks’ weekly meetings.

We envision looking back in 20 years and saying ‘Now look at all the businesses that started here.’

Kerry Stevenson, co- founder, AssentWorks

“Someone will say, ‘Well, I’m doing such and such,’ and across the table someone’s face will light up and they will be like, ‘I need to talk to you after this,’” Stevenson said.

The non-profit organization was originally established in hopes of attracting entrepreneurs as members - which it has. However, the founders have been surprised by the wide array of members they have attracted outside the entrepreneurial circle.

AssentWorks has acquired an eclectic mix of members, “from students and artists, to husbands who are getting kicked out of their garage, or people who just like to make things,” Stevenson said.

The focus on business is still at the forefront of AssentWorks’ mission.

“We envision looking back in 20 years and saying ‘Now look at all the businesses that started here,’” Stevenson said.

The organization chose to run as a non-profit because they believed it better suited Winnipeg.

“People here like to help. We see that every day at AssentWorks,” Stevenson said.

AssentWorks plans to broaden their horizons by offering workshops to their members, and continually developing their space to fit the needs of their members. They also hope to work with Red River College in the future, by hosting labs or courses in their space and offering educational memberships to students.

For more information, visit www.assentworks.ca.

Published in Volume 66, Number 14 of The Uniter (November 30, 2011)

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