Creation Nation Makerspace helps southwestern Manitoba entrepreneurs take flight

A southwestern Manitoba makerspace is helping local entrepreneurs grow their hobbies and side businesses into full-time incomes.

Ben Loewen launched his business Loewen Sharpening out of the Creation Nation Makerspace in Brandon. He provides tool maintenance, breathing new life into people’s favourite tools.

He never thought the space located at the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation would lead to him launching his own small business. Some of the tools offered at Creation Nation include vinyl cutting, sublimation printing, heat, mug pressing, 3D printing, a full woodshop, a laser cutter and a variety of hand tools.

“The makerspace is a remarkable opportunity for any kind of maker,” Loewen said. “To have a workshop where you can learn to use tools as well as simply have the space to work and be among other very inspiring people is a remarkable opportunity.”

Loewen has been using Creation Nation for three years. When he first set up shop in the space he lived in an apartment and needed a workshop for his woodworking projects.

When he began using the space he didn’t think it would lead to full-time work as a self-employed business owner.

At one point he was working four jobs while pursuing the creation of Loewen Sharpening.

It was a lot of hard work starting his businesses, he said, and every spare moment has gone into building Loewen Sharpening. He is still hustling to grow the business as it is now his sole source of income.

Having access to Creation Nation and its co-ordinator Russ Mitchell has been priceless, he said. Mitchell helped build community connections while encouraging local entrepreneurs through education and support.

“As an entrepreneur, I’m the only guy running this business. It’s all on me. But to have other people who are in the same situation, where their whole operation rides on their initiative and their work, it’s their insights and things that we talk about that you won’t find anywhere else,” Loewen said. 

The Creation Nation Maker Markets that began in July inspired him to “pull the trigger” and go full-time with his small business.

“The biggest thing is getting my presence out there in the community. People need to know that I’m here,” Loewen said.

“It just keeps growing. And it isn’t just Brandon. It’s the entire … southern Manitoba area that needs this.”

Growing Community

The makerspace is for hobbyists or people starting their small businesses or side hustle, Mitchell said. Creation Nation launched its makers market this summer as a way to showcase community entrepreneurs.

“You’re proud to see them go out and do that on their own … it’s really amazing to just be a part of that and help facilitate their growth like that,” Mitchell said. “We’re having a great time doing it and showcasing our members who are creating and starting their small businesses.”

Items on display at the market ranged from those who use the space for their side hustles, small business owners just starting out and those who have launched full-time businesses.

“The makerspace community that we’re trying to build is is a community of people that are members helping members,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of people that are talking to each other and sharing what they did, the mistakes they made, and how to avoid them.”

Creation Nation launched in September 2019 and these interactions are what are making the space a success, Mitchell said.

Two young girls hold a board with hand-made earings on it.
Sophia and Zoe Forbes show off jewelry they created at Brandon’s Creation Nation Makerspace. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Sophia Forbes, eight, and Zoe Forbes, 10, used Creation Nation to start their own business while raising funds for local charities. The duo use the laser cutter at Creation Nation, with help from their mom, to make and sell wooden jewlery.

They have been hustling and creating jewlery for about three years now, raising more than $4,000 for local charities.

The Children’s Hospital lies especially close to their hearts as each donation is made in honour of Olivia Baessler, known as “Olivia the Brave,” a neighbour who died of a brain tumour a few weeks before her fifth birthday.

Using their business to help the community has been a positive experience for the sisters. Zoe said they have learned a lot and want to continue being entrepreneurs as they get older.

Zoe wants to encourage other people to be creative and try to turn their passions into an entrepreneurial project at the makerspace.

“It feels really good,” Zoe said. “We’re helping out in the community for a little project so I can help and save people’s lives.

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