BN’s Charles Payne, NewOak Capital President James Frischling, Tea Party News Network News Director Scottie Nell Hughes, small business expert Susan Solovic, retail analyst Hitha Prabhakar and Penn Financial Group founder Matt McCall debate the role of government in education.
Incubators. They aren’t just for poultry anymore. According to the National Business Incubation Association, there are more than 1,200 incubators in the U.S. and some 7,000 around the world. Back in 1980, there were only 12 incubators, so the phenomenon is certainly growing.
One type of incubator is sponsored by a university and for the most part you need to be a student at the university to participate. Other varieties can be associated with a state or local government, a nonprofit group or be a for-profit venture.
Which is right for you?
As a small business owner, is there an incubator that would be a good fit for your project? The first question to ask is whether or not your business would be considered a startup. Many, but not all, incubators work exclusively with startups.
If you’ve been around for a few years and are looking for ways to enjoy renewed growth, an incubator will be harder to find. (More on this below.) Consider a mentoring relationship with a local business person. Score would be a good place to start your search.
However, if you have an idea and are in the startup stages, or just beginning to float the idea to others who may want to participate, looking at incubators could pay off. Note that some incubators are not much more than a co-working space while others offer seminars, manufacturing space, connections to angel investors and more.
Fee structures vary
Some incubators have a fee schedule that depends on the number of employees you have and the kind of space you require. For-profit incubators will typically get a stake in your company. If you’re still in school and think you’re ready to build a company around your idea, university incubators are usually free for students until graduation.
Government sponsored incubators underwrite some of the costs with public money. These projects are looking to broaden the local tax base and employment opportunities by locating startups in their communities and helping to assure their success.
The marriage of technology startups and incubators gets most of the attention in the press, however some incubators specialize in various industries. Blue Ridge Food Ventures helps, well, food industry startups. The creative graphic design and marketing minds at Object 9 hooked up with the Louisiana Business & Technology Center Small Business Incubator.
Public programs boost local business
By the way, LBTC is housed at Louisiana State University and has programs for students as well as for the general public. And not only does it work with startups, it helps established businesses grow or overcome threats. If either of those two last categories describe your situation, look first to nearby incubators that are connected to the state or local government.
Finally, although I’ve heard about virtual incubators, I haven’t yet seen any that have been very substantial. If you have, let me know and I’ll pass along the information. I won’t mention any specifically here because for the most part they don’t seem to be taking off or they are more like a social media forum for startups or potential startups.
Has your small business been helped by a small business incubator?