What would you call a makerspace-style workshop based in Worcester? WorcShop, of course. Complete with offices and heavy tools, the facility on Stafford Street opened about six months ago, and there are already plans to expand. Sean M. Haley rolls up his sleeves for a closer look.
The Worcester-based startup has harnessed some magical powers — for instance, childhood passion for Japanese anime and business acumen that focuses on the customer — to rise in the gaming world. If real-world (tabletop) playability with fantastical characters appeals, check out “AEGIS” and look for new creations ahead from this team of Becker grads led by Breeze Grigas. Sean Haley has the story.
In the same month as Petricore’s first anniversary, Canuel, a 2015 Becker graduate, was named the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year. “Ryan has spent the last few years making all the right moves,” MassDiGI executive director Tim Loew said. “We’re proud of him and how his team’s grown.” Canuel and Petricore, indeed, are a Worcester success story. Read all about it.
It starts, as so many good stories do, in a buddy’s basement. “It was a natural transition. I picked [home brewing] up quickly,” said award-winning Flying Dreams founder Dave Richardson, adding his background in sciences played a huge role in the early success. “The first time was awesome. The second time was even better. By the fifth time, I wanted to start a brewery.” Sean Haley taps into the creativity and passion that make Richardson and his brew house one of a kind.
Learning, discovery and success shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone. When it comes to closing that distance, the WorcShop is here to help.
WorcShop, which opened its doors in April, can be thought of as, first and foremost, a greenhouse for creativity.
“Inspiration, innovation, empowerment are our chief tenets,” said Randal Gardner, co-owner of Eternity Ironworks and one of the WorcShop’s founding members.
Jessica White / courtesy WorcShop
The possibilities at WorcShop could be enlightening.
For a monthly fee the shop, at 243 Stafford St., offers a variety of different offices, work bays, classrooms and (perhaps most impressive) a wide selection of heavy tools from lathes to tensile testing machines. This means if an experienced crafter needs a place to set up shop or a newcomer wants to try their hand, the hard part has been taken care of.
“When people want to start out (with a new hobby), they ask themselves, ‘How hard can it be?’ ” said Alex Phillips, WorcShop member and leatherworker. “And if you have all the pieces, the answer is, ‘Not very.’ ”
“You get to try things without the hassle of startup costs,” executive director Angela Pasceri said.
Most graduates from Becker College’s game design program compete for work in the high-tech space. Breeze Grigas, however, created a niche for himself in the analog world with his tabletop game company, Zephyr Workshop.
The company’s flagship product, “AEGIS,” which is an acronym for Assault, Evasive, Guard, Intel, Support, describes the various classes of giant robots that players command and fight within the game. Each turn, players are allotted a certain amount of energy to shoot, move and even combine robots to harness their unique specialties.
Courtesy Zephyr Workshop / Breeze Grigas
“AEGIS” and Zephyr Workshop are building momentum.
Grigas drew ideas for these games from his own childhood, citing his love of giant robot anime and strategy games as his sources of inspiration.
“I grew up watching nothing but ‘Power Rangers’ and ‘Voltron.’ That’s pretty much been my life, just watching giant robot anime.”
So Grigas studied at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton for programming, and then later drafting/CAD (computer-aided design), an experience which helped define his future path as a game designer.
“I intended to make games or do something similarly creative going into high school, and going to a high school that let me explore different professions rather than normal classes really helped me out.”
If you noticed a change in the air — call it a more of a playful wind — beginning in May 2015, you can thank Petricore, a versatile tech sector startup centered on game design and app development comprised of Becker College students, and bolstered by advisors from the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI).
Turns out the young firm’s young co-founder and CEO, Ryan Canuel, might just be a force of nature. And nobody is more surprised than him.
Since its launch, Petricore strove to embody its tagline, “the smell of great games,” through developing games, apps and software that have permeated the United States and overseas.
In the same month as Petricore’s first anniversary, Canuel, a 2015 Becker graduate, was named the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year, an award he said he accepted with humility and gratitude toward his team.
Courtesy of MassDiGI
From left, Christina Andriano, James Spavold, Chris Bruno and Oliver Awat join Petricore CEO Ryan Canuel in accepting his award for being the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year.
“I was definitely shocked when I heard,” Canuel said during a recent interview at his 20 Franklin St. office. “There are definitely times where you stop and you ask, ‘Why the hell are we doing this?’ ”
Indeed, sometimes the world can seem to be made of only obstacles. But with the right combination of self-awareness, humor and perseverance, Petricore sustained itself during those critical and unpredictable months of small-business infancy.
More practically speaking, it was the contract from an app they developed for anonymous patient feedback on interactions with surgeons, Mentorathand, that buoyed the company financially early on as it branched out
“Ryan has spent the last few years making all the right moves,” MassDiGI executive director Tim Loew said. “We’re proud of him and how his team’s grown.”
Some people know from a very young age what they want to be in life, and exploration quickly turns to repetition. Others follow a passion for discovery and find their calling in whatever holds the most room for wonderment and growth.
For Dave Richardson, the journey might’ve well begun with his coursework at the University of Vermont, where he graduated with a major in environmental sciences and a double minor in plant and soil sciences.
Sean M. Haley / For Worcester Sun
Flying Dreams Brewing Co. is at 455 Park Ave.
Or, it might’ve begun with his first sip of craft beer.
Now, almost 20 years later, Richardson is the proud owner and braumeister of Worcester’s Flying Dreams Brewing Co. at 455 Park Ave. The brewery, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary in November, was founded on the principles of using quality, unique ingredients, and spending extra brewing time to allow for a superior beer that holds its flavor longer.
And just like his philosophies related to brewing, Richardson’s own journey holds a combination of uniqueness and the time to flourish.
Any important long-term goal requires perseverance and hope. Whether it’s finding the right job, attending college, or finishing a seven-mile road race, the Worcester Genesis Club is there to provide the starting point for its members to dream big and finish strong.
Genesis Club, an agency offering a wide range of services for those suffering from mental illness, has had a home in Worcester on Lincoln Street since 1988.
“To help people with these disorders, it takes establishing a stable foundation,” said Kevin Bradley, the clubhouse’s executive director. “We want to help members [get] back to work, get back to housing, and get back to being a part of the community.”
Sean M. Haley / For Worcester Sun
Peter Dixon, a longtime volunteer, left, and director Kevin Bradley stand outside Genesis Club on Lincoln Street.
Therefore, the club focuses on establishing a baseline of healthy routines, time and stress management skills, finding gainful employment, and having a sense of belonging; things that anyone can take for granted until they are forced to go without them.
Like a couple decades fewer to look forward to, for instance.
“People with mental illness have a 25-year earlier mortality,” Bradley said in reference to data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It’s not something people like to talk about, but it’s an important issue.
With a shared vision and support from their community of friends and colleagues, three WPI grads set out to create a utopia for innovation. “We could teach others and take care of ourselves,” said founder Nicholas Bold. “We were making genuine progress bringing in more people to help, and we didn’t have to go at odds with anyone.” And then progress met permits. New Sun contributor Sean M. Haley has the fascinating tale of how Technocopia got where it is today.