The Perks of Business Incubators

While creating a culinary delight for breakfast the other day, it occurred to me that making an omelet was more than merely “scrambling some eggs.” First, I had to decide what the end result would be like; in this case, sausage, onions, peppers and cheese. Then ingredients had to be selected, gathered and prepared. The choices were many and the resulting synergies would be different. It was only through this process that the raw eggs were developed into a magnificent omelet.

I like to cook. But this is not a cooking column. It’s a business column, and the topic is business incubation. The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) defines business incubation as “a business support process that accelerates the successful development of start-up and fledgling companies by providing entrepreneurs with an array of targeted resources and services.”

In the same way that resources must be carefully selected and blended to create outstanding omelets from eggs, bringing resources to entrepreneurs while carefully selecting resources that will help them reach their full potential will enable the development of great companies.

The NBIA continues: “Critical to the definition of an incubator is the provision of management guidance, technical assistance and consulting tailored to young growing companies. Incubators usually also provide clients access to appropriate rental space and flexible leases, shared basic business services and equipment, technology support services and assistance in obtaining the financing necessary for company growth.”

The role of a business incubator in economic development is to “provide support to business start-ups, until those start-ups are sustainable and viable companies in the area they are located.” Many types of business incubators exist, as they focus on the needs and resources of their local community and on the level of entrepreneurial interest in that locale. The most common incubator is a mixed-use incubator, which houses different types of companies. In areas with a concentration of resources, either academic or a local economic cluster of like-companies, specialized incubators can be effective.

There are online and virtual business incubators that provide services to online and geographically divergent businesses (usually in rural areas or sparsely populated states). The detail will vary by type of incubator, but usually they all offer the following:

  • Training programs (some usually mandatory) in general management techniques and skills.
  • Specialized training and mentoring in the technical area the business is engaged in.
  • Access to local attorneys, accountants and other experts at no or reduced cost.
  • Shared access to conference rooms, videoconference facilities and office equipment.
  • Mentors from the local Small Business Development Center and other programs that provide free consulting.
  • Affiliations that help find the financing needed to establish and expand their businesses.

Successful business incubators accelerate the establishment of new businesses in their community. Those businesses graduate in an average of three years, according to the NBIA, and 87 percent of the graduate companies remain in the local community where they invest in plants and equipment, create jobs and pay taxes.

If you are starting a business, consider searching for a business incubator. It may just be the place to create a successful business.

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