Local Business Spotlight: Crafty, creative and exciting things are coming out of the WorcShop

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.

The possibilities at WorcShop could be enlightening.

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.

Local Business Spotlight: That Breeze you feel is the momentum behind Zephyr Workshop

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.

AEGIS and Zephyr Workshop are building momentum.

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.”

Local Business Spotlight: Ryan Canuel and Petricore love it when a plan comes together

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.

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.

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.”

Local Business Spotlight: Flying Dreams brewery crafts a unique story

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.

Flying Dreams Brewing Co. is at 455 Park Ave.

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.

Local Business Spotlight: Dianna’s Neighborhood Bistro blends community, passion, fine cuisine

Richard and Diane George celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary last Tuesday, July 14. Their love story, like their careers, started in the kitchen. The couple first met while working at the same hotel and then started dating when Diane became the chef at and helped her friend open Val’s Restaurant in Holden.

Richard’s and Diane’s lifelong passion for cooking led to the April 21 opening of their own restaurant, Dianna’s Neighborhood Bistro, at 120 June St.

This intimate eatery — named Dianna’s instead of Diane’s because it “sounds more European,” in case you’re wondering — formerly home to Le Mirage, uses classic cooking techniques to put new twists on traditional dishes, Richard said.

The husband and wife team behind Dianna's Neighborhood Bistro, Richard and Diane George. They celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary July 14.

Sloane M. Perron / For Worcester Sun

The husband and wife team behind Dianna’s Neighborhood Bistro, Richard and Diane George. They celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary July 14.

Richard, the oldest of seven children, said his skill as a chef developed by cooking for his family. After 45 years in the restaurant business, including 18 managing Grove Street’s Ciao Bella, he’s held an array of interesting jobs, such as working as the executive chef on the iconic Mississippi Queen steamboat.

Diane’s cooking experience began in the late 1970s when she was 14 and started working at Central Kitchen, a bakery on Main Street, that was an offshoot of the Oyster House. By learning how to make bread and bake first hand, Diane says she found her niche early on as a teenager.

“I always loved cooking. It was something I wanted to do,” she says.

Maximum capacity: Hard-working Becker student crashes Bravehearts all-star party

Rejon Taylor-Foster had nowhere to go.

It was May 2014 and Taylor-Foster, a developer, game designer and teenage founder of the digital production studio Maximum Crash, had a problem.

His freshman year at Becker College was over, his home in Mount Vernon, New York, lost to neighborhood gentrification.

His options were limited, his drive was not. His requirements?

“All I needed was a corner and an outlet,” he said. “If I am able to get the tech, I can do the job because my skills are intact. I still have my computer. If I can get power, and I can connect to people, I can do more.”

Rejon Taylor-Foster

Mark Henderson / Worcester Sun

Rejon Taylor-Foster

Credit the family of Taylor-Foster’s friend Jeff Reiner for providing the corner, the outlet and an air mattress at their home in Burlington. Taylor-Foster took care of the rest.

Coding, or programming, was not just a way to make money. It is a way for Taylor-Foster to improve his skills, which are considerable, to create a better life.

Those skills are on display most notably in Bravehearts Derby, an app developed for the Worcester Bravehearts. Taylor-Foster created the original game upon which it is based and led a team of enterprising students in creating a slick, enhanced version for the city’s hometown team.

Bravehearts Derby app a blast for fans, home run for MassDiGI developers

At first it seemed like a longshot.

Timothy Loew, Executive Director of the Mass. Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), and Worcester Bravehearts General Manager Dave Peterson gathered the students of MassDiGI’s Summer Innovation Program to kick around ideas for a Bravehearts app.

“I had known about the program at Becker,” Peterson said, “and Tim Loew reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, we have a great opportunity for you to come in with the mascot, and talk to MassDiGI about what the baseball team is and what the baseball team does in the community; and who knows where it’ll take us, but maybe it’ll spark an idea about a potential app.’

The Bravehearts Derby app is more than just a video game.

Courtesy Maximum Crash

The Bravehearts Derby app is more than just a video game.

“We talked about things like promoting reading, promoting sportsmanship, promoting healthy living,” Peterson said. “Part of what this app developed into is a game that kids can play, but it also has scrolling messages that talk about the team.

“It also talks about what Jake the Lion is doing in the community during the course of the year. We kind of tied together the community aspect and the gaming aspect.”

The problem was, each of the students was already assigned to a team producing a game for the summer program.

Local Business Spotlight: ETAwiz, Worcester-developed app is right on time

Very rarely would one pinpoint a vintage car show as the site for modern innovation.

It was in this setting of lax fuel emissions standards and pastel-painted tailfins, however, that ETAwiz — a free, location based-service app recently launched in the Apple App Store — would find its beginning between CEO and Founder Kevin Anderson and Chief Operating Officer Michael Aguirre.

Founder Kevin Anderson presents his app (screenshot design by Matthew Reynolds).

Courtesy ETAwiz

Founder Kevin Anderson presents his app (screenshot design by Matthew Reynolds).

As its name implies, ETAwiz orients itself around the abilities to share, receive and coordinate travelers’ expected times of arrival. From its most casual to most corporate of uses, ETAwiz is marketed as being able to service groups between “two and two-thousand members,” though the upper boundary is actually open-ended.

Designed to be used irrespective of audience — friends meeting for a post-work drink; a pizza delivery service informing a family when it should set out the paper plates; or a stranded motorist waiting for roadside assistance — Aguirre’s and Anderson’s app was constructed around the adage that “knowledge is power.”

“If I don’t know if someone is coming to my home or office, my mind starts to wander,” said Aguirre. “Just using this app, just knowing their ETA, that could definitely make you feel better” — particularly in an emergency or other high-stress situation.

Nick Bold

Local Business Spotlight: Technocopia, making it work

After much tribulation and with almost no end in sight, the builders at Technocopia finally put it all back together.

Nicholas Bold, Kevin Harrington and Alex Camelo started as three classmates from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a passion for automation, robotics and creativity in their application. They would later form Neuron Robotics in 2008, a consulting and education company designed to inspire a similar passion for robotics in others, and to assist employers in making their operations more efficient.

Nick Bold

Sun Staff / Worcester Sun

Nick Bold of Technocopia, center, meets with prospective members at a recent Open Hacks and Craft night, 7:30-10 p.m. every Thursday.

Their initial attitude toward what they define as “capital equipment,” machines designed to assist in production and reduce human labor, was that the life of the everyday person would be enhanced.

“The idea was that the less people had to work, the more time they would have for leisure activities and education,” Harrington said.

“Now you don’t have to do that work which you automated,” Bold said. “You can work on other stuff instead.”

In reality, though enterprising, their contracting experience also left them feeling disillusioned when one client, whom they left unnamed for professional reasons, laid off 30 of its workers after hiring Neuron to help automate their processes.

Local Business Spotlight: LocalPorch to bring Worcester e-commerce closer to home

LocalPorch is an innovative website begun in Worcester. A melding of technology with the shop-local trend, it aims for a more meaningful and enjoyable way for people to purchase goods made nearby.

Makers of handcrafted items, meanwhile, would through the website have an easier time finding and connecting with local customers.

LocalPorch plans a soft launch in September

Sun Staff image

LocalPorch plans a soft launch in September

Set for a soft launch in September, the site is described by owner and founder Kim Sullivan as “Craigslist meets Etsy with the payment convenience of Uber.” LocalPorch claims to be the first of its kind. Its mission is to bridge the gap between online and in-person interaction, creating a better experience for both buyer and seller.

“LocalPorch is an online marketplace for handmade goods to connect consumers with their local makers in their community. We want to create a new shopping experience for consumers by boosting the local talents of makers,” said Sullivan.