On an Island with Depesh Parmer, Ideas Inc.

At Island, we work with a lot of small businesses. Usually we’re helping them build a website, or coming up with a digital marketing strategy, but we often find ourselves lending our own advice as to what has (and hasn’t) worked as a small business. After eight years in operation, we’ve made some great connections from who we learned a lot, so we wanted to share some of this knowledge with others who may be in the same spot we were eight years ago: scared s**tless, but full of unharness-able ambition and creativity.

This month we chatted with Depesh Parmar, Executive Director of Ideas Inc. We had office space in Ideas for three years and being there had a significant impact on our success and growth. As a small business trying to get started in Saskatoon, we’d definitely recommend checking out Ideas, even if you’re not in need of space, they offer guidance and information on wherever you want to to take your business.

ISLAND: What does your organization offer for small businesses and startups?

Depesh Parmer: As Saskatchewan’s largest business incubator, Ideas Inc provides entrepreneurs and small business owner’s access to affordable space (retail, office and co-working), mentorship, and a great community of over 100 like-minded individuals.

I: Before we moved into Ideas we weren’t completely aware of the mentorship and community aspect, can you expand on that?

DP: Our diverse mentorship roster of over 20 individuals are available to help guide new business owners as they work to launch and scale their new venture. All our members have access to these established business owners to ask questions, or just chat with over a beer.

In addition to this, we offer a workplace that is super inspiring, and which hosts great events where we bring in thought-leaders to transfer knowledge and talk about various topics. We also host epic socials where you naturally develop lifelong relationships with other entrepreneurs, and a building full of valuable amenities to help your business grow.

I: What makes you different from other co-working spaces?

DP: First and foremost, Ideas Inc is an NPO. We are not in the business of real estate or moving space. Our purpose is to help startups achieve success and ultimately exit our incubator when they’re ready to expand (or leave the “nest”). We achieve this by nurturing entrepreneurs to make meaningful business decisions as they go through the journey of building their startup, and by providing a solid platform to launch and scale their business.

I: So you’ve seen a lot of businesses succeed, and others fail…what do you see as the biggest challenge those starting out might face?

DP: The challenge for any startup or new business is simply making money. From my perspective, not enough emphasis is placed on strategies to generate revenue and sales. Instead, too much time is focused on other areas that don’t necessarily generate income. Sales, sales and sales should be the #1 focus for any new startup.

Another huge challenge is the entrepreneur limiting his/herself. If he or she isn’t willing to test assumptions, constantly learn, adapt, build relationships and simply work hard – they’re likely going to fall flat on their face and fail.

I: When it comes to your website and online presence, how does that impact the success of your business?

DP: Let’s face it, technology is moving at a rapid pace and millions of people are hanging out online. Your digital presence online will have a profound impact on the success of your business, and it’s absolutely critical that you have a clear cut digital strategy in place.

I: We couldn’t agree more. Do you have any key advice for anyone thinking about starting a business?

DP: Here’s the thing. Entrepreneurship is not black and white. It can be very grey. It’s not 9am to 5pm. It’s 9am to 9am. It’s not easy sh*t. It’s fn’ hard. It’s not a race. It’s a marathon. It’s not about feelings. It’s about flow.

If you share the same mentality and this speaks to you, I would strongly suggest that you just dive in and enjoy the wild ride. That moment when you make your first sale will be a pretty magical feeling.