Sunday, May 20, 2012

Getting Help From Business Incubators

A few weeks ago, we had an entry on culinary incubators--organizations that give food entrepreneurs the space, equipment and support they need to create food products for market.  But there are general incubators, too, that help various types of businesses take off with space, equipment, access to funding, and other types of support.  Some provide free or inexpensive office space, or lab equipment for high-tech businesses.  Many offer access to loans or other types of funding.  They may offer mentoring or help writing a business proposal. 

Business incubators are different than small business development centers in a couple of ways.  SBDC do not provide space, equipment, or networked service, which many incubators do.  Also, small business centers are required to help any small or new business that requests their help, whereas business incubators often require you to apply for admission into their program.  Many business incubators only provide start-up space and help for certain kinds of businesses in which they specialize.  For instance, the Toledo, Ohio incubator at the University of Toledo specializes in renewable fuels, information technology, and other high tech businesses.  Many specialize in nuturing the type of business that takes a fair amount of research and development before they can bring a product to the market.  Techtown in Detroit, from their material, seems more broadly based and offers services and/or space to all sorts of start-ups. 

You can find an incubator near you at the National Business Incubators Association website.  Howevever, sometimes the links are not terribly helpful.  They may lead to an incubator's main site--like a university--with no link to the actual incubator activity.  In those cases, you might want to google the incubator's name and see what you can find. 

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