When I say “Rock Bay” you think, Ellis Recycle? Rock Bay Landing Shelter? Heavy industry? Down and out? Think again.

Last Tuesday I had the delight of having my socks knocked off during a tour of Rock Bay Square with owner Bob Skene, his daughter Carolyn, and John Juricic, local entrepreneur and economic development keener.

Rock Bay Square is located at 2612–2630 Bridge Street. It was originally built in the early 1920s; the three original buildings have been made into one, and recently renovated. It was once part of a mill, with lumber floating up from the inner harbour. And now? It’s a hub for artisans, light manufacturing, tech, coffee roasting, local honey, and more. It’s a beacon of Victoria’s entrepreneurial future.

In a recent Douglas Magazine article I was asked, “What do we need to do to become a more entrepreneurial city?” My response, “This is what really gets me. We are an entrepreneurial city.” This became the title of the article. What we need to do is start with this premise – we are entrepreneurial – and to nurture this entrepreneurial spirit.

How? Rock Bay Square is a great example. Co-locate and incubate. Start-ups need affordable flexible space, a ready-made community to bounce ideas off, and the ability to grow in situ. If you’re like Toni Desrosiers (below) of Abeego and you just signed a deal with a major distributer in the UK it’s really handy to have a landlord willing to knock down a wall for you so you can expand your capacity without the hassle of moving.

If you’re an artist and you need a room of your own with good natural light, you can rent a space like this one for $300 per month.

Rock Bay Square, like Space Station, Space BarFort Tectoria, and The Dock Centre for Social Impact offer co-location and incubation. And they also have a key ingredient desired by the up and coming generation of Victoria entrepreneurs. They create community. What inspired me most was the sense of community among the businesses we visited. While they’re putting Victoria on the map internationally, they’re invested here.

Artist Rande Cooke smiling with coffee mug in hand (pictured at top), has been commissioned by clients from all over the globe. He asks me as we visit his studio, how can we make Rock Bay Square and all the entrepreneurial activity here more visible. And he offers to help. I accept enthusiastically and direct him here.

Aaron (below) at Second Crack Coffee Lab – a recently opened coffee shop right on Bridge Street – sees his shop not only as a community gathering space but also as an educational place and is working on a potential partnership with Camosun College.

Frontier Marketing Co. (below) strengthens charities through efficient and effective long-term fundraising. This growing Victoria social enterprise is currently working with about 20 charities across Canada. And here at home, they sub-lease their space, desk by desk, to other entrepreneurs looking for good company and affordable start-up space.

I’m buoyed by the creativity, diversity and business growth in this tucked away corner of Victoria. It’s a microcosm of Victoria’s future. We are an entrepreneurial city. As your mayor I’m committed to fostering a spirit of collaboration and a can-do attitude at City Hall to meet this entrepreneurial spirit and to raise it.

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