Wouldn’t we all like to see more people creating and growing local businesses, thus creating more jobs, investing more money in our community, and increasing the health and diversity of our Grand Valley economy? And don’t we all know that it takes hard work, smarts, and some luck to start a successful business? Well, it takes even more of the same to grow a successful business. And there is no magic “easy” button to push and make the process simple. The vast majority of businesses fail in their first five years, and it is rarely out of a lack of effort.
Still, there are steps to take, things to consider, and practical lessons to learn that can benefit the development of entrepreneurial companies, helping them to survive and grow during the vulnerable start-up period. The sole purpose of certain organizations is to guide businesses through this process; these are business incubators. They offer specific support services and resources tailored to help companies avoid common pitfalls, learn important skills, and achieve a necessary level of preparation so that their smart ideas, hard work, and a little good luck turn into great businesses. And we’re lucky to have a great one right here in our community.
Business incubators turn an 80 percent failure rate for new businesses into an 80 percent success rate. Every venture will have its own path, but in general there are critical steps. If they’re missed, disaster can follow. It’s important to have a strategic plan for how you want to grow the business (a business plan). It’s essential to have a solid understanding of the market in which you plan to operate and a good grasp in how cash flows. New ventures need funding to get up and running and a way to keep costs down and overhead low. It is in these areas that business incubators focus their support.
Incubation as an industry has existed since 1959, and today there are an estimated 7,000 incubators worldwide. Incubators come in many different styles, shapes, and sizes. They can focus on specific industries from the arts to software development to manufacturing. Here in Colorado there is a clean-tech incubator, a homeland security incubator, a bioscience incubator, and two space incubators (focused on a new frontier of commercializing space technology). There are rural program, urban programs, accelerators, and boot camps. Some incubators are impressive state-of-the-art facilities like the LEED Gold building just completed for the Rocky Mountain Innosphere in Fort Collins. Others, like the one here in Grand Junction, utilize existing community assets (like older buildings) with a less glamorous appearance but that offer a practical, flexible space. Here in the Grand Valley, the Business Incubator Center is “mixed-use,” meaning that it serves all businesses and industries from manufacturing to construction to food production to web development. The Incubator Center is an award-winning, enduring example of one of the best sustainable programs in the country. And it is all happening down by the river, behind the Orchard Mesa Cemetery, in a former Department of Energy compound.
Creating business success takes a lot more than just an offer of low-cost space and a few classes. The heart of a true business-incubation program is the services it provides to its clients: networking with other entrepreneurs and with business leaders; help with business, strategic, and marketing plans; access to capital; and development of the skills needed to make a business successful. At the Incubator Center you can sit down, one on one, with smart people who will help you to draft budgets, projections, and a marketing plan. From funding through the Business Loan Fund to hourly rentals in the commercial kitchen, there are a lot of ways that the Incubator can be of assistance.
The Business Incubator Center is focused on results that have a positive influence on economic growth in the region. Over the past 25 years, it has supported the launch of more than 250 companies, thus creating more than 10,000 jobs and generating more than $150 million in revenue. The Grand Valley community takes pride in its independence and ability to create its own prosperity. In these times of economic uncertainty, it’s critical to seize the opportunities at hand and grow our own businesses. This is exactly what is going on at the Business Incubator Center.
To learn more or to set up an appointment to review your business goals, go to www.gjincubator.org.