EPIC Westport

Software for global companies, hemp cookies and more.

Ben Dellaca is the founding director of CerebralFix a software development business, making mobile games for global entertainment companies, including Disney and EA.

Together with partner Natasha Barnes-Dellaca, they have been the driving force behind the establishment of an innovation hub in Westport called EPIC Westport. The centre is a spin-off of the original Christchurch EPIC (Enterprise Precinct Innovation Centre) which was set up as a hub for displaced and new businesses after the 2011 earthquakes.

EPIC Westport opened in 2016 in a building, which was once part of the Dellaca family’s Postie Plus clothing empire which originated in Westport.

As a collaborative centre, EPIC offers support for new business ventures as well as space for those who need a base for a day or a week when in Westport. The venture makes mobile working a normal way of doing business.

“EPIC Westport has recently completed stage two of its development and now covers 800 square metres of office, event and coworking space - with 18 tenants so far,” Natasha says. “Space is going quickly.”

EPIC Westport

Photo: Jules Anderson

Ben says they chose his hometown for the new venture because he could see the many benefits for both lifestyle and economic advantage. As more and more companies embrace the opportunities digital technologies offer, it opens doors to living in less expensive regions and this in particular was what Ben honed in on.

“We have staff who have moved directly from San Francisco and Mexico City to work in our Westport office, as well as guys that have migrated from our main development studios in Christchurch. They all love it here in on the West Coast.”

“Home ownership is now achievable for all of our staff, as well as access to surfing and mountain biking within 15 mins of the office. 

Emily Miazga is an expat Canadian and former clinical dietitian who is now the ‘Powergirl’ behind Em’s Power Cookies and a tenant at EPIC.

“We came to Westport in 2006 because we just wanted to get out of the city. It was really important for my husband Mitch and I to have a good lifestyle. It was so beautiful here, and the perfect training ground for the Coast to Coast, and we just fell in love with the Coast and never looked back,” Emily says.

Emily has made a habit of coming first. As an endurance athlete she won the gruelling Coast to Coast three times. Now her business Em’s Power Cookies, has become the first to get commercially produced hemp protein cookies on the market in New Zealand, with supermarket chain Countdown stocking her products nation-wide.

About two years ago, Emily caught wind that hemp food legislation was in the works, so she wasted no time getting into the kitchen and started developing her product in anticipation.

“I always wanted to make a protein cookie but didn’t want to use dairy or soy if possible,” Emily says. She calls hemp “nature’s powerfully nutritious superfood.”

When legislative changes were finally made in November, Emily was ready to hit the ground running, and now distributes her hemp protein cookies across New Zealand and internationally, all while running her business from EPIC Westport.

“Westport is a small town, and we are a little off the beaten track, but that is no barrier to us really thriving and kicking ass economically,” she says.

Em's Power Cookies

Photo: Jules Anderson

And if you needed more evidence of how progressive organisations can thrive and ‘kick ass’ in a small town like Westport, look no further than another EPIC tenant, the NEM Blockchain Hub.

While business and industry in other New Zealand centres are still grappling to understand what blockchain even is and how they can use it, this organisation is up and running in Westport, pumping out blockchain-based gaming products alongside virtual reality and augmented reality products.

And what a fascinating progression from the town’s rich history in goldmining to now being a leader in all things blockchain and the cryptocurrency mining that platform supports!

Which just cements the message that Westport offers the perfect balance for those looking to get more out of life. From working in the cutting-edge world of blockchain to the great outdoors, Westport has it all.

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