Michele Breuer got nervous early last year when the B.C. government clamped down on spending. Purchases were deferred, travel budgets chopped, consulting contracts not renewed. After three years working as a facilitator for a Victoria training company, she had plans for her own commercial meeting place called Victoria Executive Centre for workshops and professional development.
But when the provincial axe fell, she shelved the idea.
Then, a short time later, the University of Victoria decided to offer a second business program downtown and contacted Breuer about using her space. It was a critical moment — what could have been a disastrous time to open a business was actually just the right time.
“We leased the space in July and gutted everything from the hallway out,” says Breuer. “We ripped the place apart and put it back together again,” says her partner and husband, Pat Swift, a skilled woodworker who made some of the furniture from Douglas fir.
The centre is a welcoming place. Breuer serves good coffee and pastries for breaks, there’s a lovely view out one wall of windows to a park, and she went for quality office furniture. “I always wanted to have a facility but didn’t realize the importance of ergonomics and comfort,” she says. “All-day meetings aren’t fun. Meetings can suck.”
The downturn has actually turned up business for the VEC, located in third-floor space on Fort Street. Instead of sending civil servants out of town for training and meetings, the province now puts on some sessions at the VEC. It fits with the B.C. government’s green plan, reducing carbon emissions along with travel expenses. They use their own staff for meetings and training sessions but rent the VEC space, which comes with extensive video and web capability.
“I’ve doubled revenue every month since September,” says Breuer, who is starting to get bookings on evenings and weekends, even from customers she never expected. For example, a condominium strata council held its annual general meeting at the VEC.
“I’m getting repeats which is really nice to see,” she says.
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