I just recently learned about the business incubators springing up in big cities around the country. This concept has actually been around for years, and I had no idea that one exists here in Reading! I met with Jump Start Incubator in the fall and was invited to apply and was accepted in January. Here’s why I think every start-up business should spend some time in a business incubator:
- Mentors. I am a big believer in mentors. They have encountered things in their careers and lives that have imparted valuable lessons that can only be learned through experience. Having them share their knowledge and life lessons is not only interesting, but a great way to learn. I’ve learned how to handle certain situations and look at issues differently as well as get new ideas.
- Community Connections. Through the incubator, I’ve had the opportunity to be introduced to and to connect with individuals in our community that may be able to provide help and insight into my business. I’ve also been introduced to local companies that provide services that may help grow my business. When I have expressed an issue that I’m facing, the incubator’s staff has been able to introduce me to local businesses or people in the community who have the expertise in those areas that I’m struggling in. I have talked with people in positions at companies that I would not have had the opportunity to meet with at this point in my career. It’s amazing to be able to meet with successful people who are willing to help me.
- Finance. As a member of the Incubator, I have the opportunity to work closely with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). They have someone there to answer any accounting questions I may have, to make sure I know how to use QuickBooks, and to help me make sure my business is financially healthy. They can help when you are ready to talk to the bank about a loan or when you’re looking to take on investors. Overall, it’s great to have a group of financial experts at your fingertips.
- Expanded Team. I’m not sure about all incubators, but the Berks Jump Start Incubator has employees and interns. Immediately, my team was expanded without me having to actually hire anyone. I’ve used the Incubator’s staff for a variety of tasks such as creating marketing pieces, compiling targeted media lists and researching industry topics. As a small business owner, I wear many hats, and it’s great when there is help to complete all the tasks that need to be done so I can feel less overwhelmed and actually get to everything I want to and need to accomplish to keep growing my business.
- Goal Setting/Accountability. As with anything, planning and staying focused is important. As a member of the Incubator, I have signed on to be a part of their program for two years. At the end of the two years I graduate, but I am responsible for deciding what that means. I must create my two-year goal for what I want to get out of the Incubator, what I want to accomplish and where I want to be. This is the point at which I “graduate” and would consider the program a success. I must lie out my goals, break them down into smaller goals, and create deadlines in order to figure out how to complete my overall larger goals. I meet with Ray Melcher to measure where I am and to discuss how it’s going and to make sure I stay on track. Being accountable to someone more than myself as well as having some input on how to accomplish my goals has been a great way to stay focused on the big picture while working on the steps to get there.
For more info on the Jump Start Incubator, visit jumpstartberks.org.