kristen thompson/for metro vancouver
When most other teenage girls were making minimum wage working at the mall, Minna Van was launching her own information technology company.
That early passion for entrepreneurship developed into a sort of obsession for developing new businesses.
At 25, the Simon Fraser University communications graduate and self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur is already the proprietor of Atomic Media, a company that provides web design and marketing for small businesses, as well as a promotions firm, Urban Bella. She has plans in the works for three more businesses, including a call centre in India.
Van’s lifelong passion for entrepreneurship also inspired her last year to launch the Network Hub, a trendy loft-style office space for startup businesses, home to eight first-time entrepreneurs, all of whom are under 30. She calls the Hub her proudest accomplishment to date.
“My goal is for the Hub to be a catalyst. It’s a stepping stone to growing your own company,” said Van, adding that instead of encouraging entrepreneurs to stay at the Hub, she helps them outgrow it.
“This is so needed for young people,” she said. “There wasn’t anything like this when I started my business in high school.”
Tenants get a professional downtown Vancouver workspace for a fraction of the cost of renting an office, as well as access to resources like answering services and copy and fax facilities. She personally interviews prospective tenants to make sure they are a good fit with the Hub’s other fun, creative young professionals.
“I try to keep it different industries because of the creative flow,” Van said.
Among the tenants are a public relations firm, a floral arrangement business and a student travel agency.
“It’s a community here,” she said. “We share everything, we support each other, we work with each other, and we’re there for each other.”
They also work long hours together. “On Friday, six people were working in the office until 3 a.m. We had six of us huddled around the front reception, bouncing ideas off each other, even though we were working on different projects. We turned the music up really loud and thought about flicking the lights on and off to make it like a dance club.”
She likened the late nights to university cram sessions. “We have a lot of beer and chicken wings.”
“A lot of difference can happen if you’re just given the opportunity,” she said. “It’s not a hand out, but a hand up.”