Incubating for success

Story by Ian Coutts. Photo courtesy BOJAK Manufacturing.

People call Innovation Park an incubator. It’s an apt image – a company, an idea or even an entrepreneur could be likened to a seed. Put that seed in the right environment, nurture it, and it may, we all hope, grow.
 But you could also see it as a pit stop -- entrepreneurs pull in, get the help they need and then, with a little luck, they are on their way. Fast.
That’s certainly the way Richard Zakrzewski of BOJAK Manufacturing saw it.
Already a successful entrepreneur (he helped found Transformix, a successful, Kingston-based manufacturer of automated systems back in 1995), Zakrzewski had an ambitious new idea – no less than changing the way technology is used in manufacturing. Plenty of firms have modern equipment, but he says, “they are still tracking everything in a book in someone’s office.” An expert in automated conveyors and other systems for moving goods around plants, he wanted to develop versions of these useful tools that would take advantage of automated product tracking and control.
And he was in a hurry. For Zakrzewski, “Starting up, there has to be a sense of urgency to move on.” You want to hit the ground running. Zakrzewski’s goal was to create new products. Before they were ready, however, he knew he would be selling what other companies had developed. That would give him cash flow and help him develop a sales pipeline and customers for the products BOJAK would ultimately be turning out. 
He also knew that he didn’t want to waste valuable time and energy on looking for office and work space – Innovation Park was the answer. “I was able to walk right in and start working on my business strategy from day one.” That was in Spring 2015.
Just six months later, he was on his way. “We purchased a building, and BOJAK moved in there in December. It’s a five thousand square foot facility. We have plans to expand it to 15,000, and we have already rented a trailer just to give us more office space.” Six people now work for Bojak (he was on his own when he started last year) and the company’s client base has grown steadily over the past few months as well. 
“As we’ve been selling,” says Zakrzewski, “we’ve also been working on our in-house capability to develop and build these products.  That will help us grow to the next level as fast as possible. We’re already landing six-figure contracts, which is unusual for a company our size.”
Most exciting, in March of this year they launched BOJAK’s first product, “a sanitary conveyor system with plug and play technology for the control system.” 
“I know we seemed to accelerate pretty fast,” says Zakrzewski, “but for entrepreneurs with business experience, that’s about the speed you should go. It shouldn’t take that long to incubate and then move on.”
And like a champion race car driver, he is quick to praise his pit crew. “Angel Schur, Rick Boswell, Janice Mady, everybody at Innovation Park, they’ve been great.” Mady and Boswell also worked with him to land a grant from the Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program, which covered his rent at Innovation Park and helped him with product development. 
Innovation Park “worked exactly the way I anticipated. It allowed me to get my plans in place and to figure out what BOJAK would become. And when I was ready, BOJAK was launched from there,” says Zakrzewski.
“They still send me emails about events or anything we might be interested in. Any time they want to invite us in to give advice or listen to what other companies are up to, we try to give our time, although,” he laughs, “that has been kind of limited lately.”
For Zakrzewski, any entrepreneur, no matter his or her experience, can benefit from time in Innovation Park. “especially for the early months, when you’re trying to set up your company. It’s a great way to start.”
Plus, says Zakrzewski, “They want you to succeed as much as you do.”