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Business Incubation Revisited 

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Since I started working with entrepreneurs and small business owners in 2006, the idea of business incubation has seen ebb and flow popularity. When I first heard of it, the idea was to set up small spaces where start-ups could start and grow to a point they’d be ready to move out of the incubator to their own space. Some incubators have time limits. If you’re a new business, you may only have a year or two before you have to move out. Once, in those early days, I toured an incubator at a university that was essentially a room partitioned off into maybe a dozen cubicles. Although there was a certain electricity in the air, once seated in your cubicle, you were pretty much isolated from the others working to grow their businesses. 

Reduced Cost in Launching a Business 

The idea of the incubator was—and is—to make it easier and less expensive to launch and grow a business. A sliding rent scale over the first year or two, sometimes starting at no rent for a few months, ramping up to full rent after the first year or two, was supposed to be the incentive to inspire people to start businesses. There are a lot of expenses and other considerations to starting a business and reduced rent, while being a nice incentive, did not make people run out and start new businesses. 

More than Just Low-price Rent 

For retail businesses, the incubator is only good if the location is good for the business. We were involved in a good partnership with the city of Independence to use the iMall at 325 N. Penn as a business incubator a few years ago. The city rehabilitated the building and we offered the sliding rent scale to new businesses. While I’m not sure we attracted many people to start businesses, the arrangement was very helpful for several tenants that had already just started their businesses. A couple of years ago, some of the tenants went together and purchased the building. Today, although no longer an incubator, all spaces are rented and there is likely more foot traffic into the iMall than just about any other building in downtown Independence. 

A More Holistic Approach to Starting a Business 

Our newest effort at business incubation will be in the expansion building at Fab Lab ICC. (We hope to be ready for move-in during October 2018.) This time, we’ll be using a class, Entrepreneurial Mindset, to help aspiring business owners develop and validate their market solutions and use Fab Lab ICC for prototyping and promotional materials. Individual business coaching will continue to be offered and for those that need space or a place to come and work on their businesses. On becoming a Fab Lab member, business owners can elect to become part of our Growth Accelerator, a collection of tools and coaching to help grow their businessesGrowth Accelerator members will have come and go access to the Bull Pen free of charge.  

Bull Pen Allows for Prep to Enter the Game of the Marketplace 

Those needing a more permanent work space, cubicle or even office can rent space to keep their stuff on a sliding scale. The analogy comes from the fact that in baseball, pitchers prepare and warm up for the game in the bull pen. In our Bull Pen, entrepreneurs will prepare and warm up for their entry into the marketplace. 

The physical Bull Pen will feature an open collaboration design. We believe there are big advantages in the ways various membercan network and collaborate with each other while working on their own businesses.  

Inspiring people to start new businesses comes down to inspiring a change in mindset and self-empowerment. That’s what we’re doing with the Entrepreneurial Mindset class and the Fab Lab experience. The new Entrepreneurs Bullpen, coming in October of 2018, will extend that mindset change to a physical collaborative space for those that are ready to move their new business into this special location thus reclaiming their dining room tables, spare bedrooms and/or garages.  

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks.  


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