If you own a small business, a new startup, or a company that needs a boost, consider looking into the variety of startup incubator options out there. A business incubator is a program designed to bring a collaborative atmosphere to small businesses. An incubator helps small businesses figure out the right answers to common startup questions.
The majority of startup incubators are nonprofits, and a large number of these are associated with business schools or university business programs. In addition, civic groups, governments, and entrepreneurs who have been successful have created business incubators.
The incubation process
When you’re considering working with a business incubator program, keep in mind that you need to find the right incubator for your company. You will need to apply to become part of the incubator program. There are no set requirements, and every startup incubator may require different things from your company, such as a working business plan or feasible ideas.
Once you are accepted into an incubation program, you’ll quickly find that you have a variety of services available to you. Many incubators offer shared administration and office space. Help with the physical space your company uses is an important part of the growth of your company.
The amount of time your company is a part of the incubation process varies and depends on several aspects. First, the incubator program you work with may require a set time commitment. In some cases this is a minimum time, while other programs have a maximum length. Another factor is your business expertise and the type of business you are building. Businesses that require more research or a longer production time generally are in incubation programs longer than fast production- or service-based businesses.
Finding an incubator
When you’re considering working with a startup incubator to help grow your business, there are several places to look. Talk to the administration or professors at local colleges and universities. If they do not currently have an incubation program, it is something they may be working toward. Keep in mind that to become a member of an educational institution incubation program, you may need to be currently or previously enrolled in the school. This is not always the case, but it is an important consideration.
Talk to other business owners in the area. If you know local entrepreneurs, talk to them about networking with others who may be part of, or even run, startup incubators. Having a good network is certainly not necessary to finding and working with a business incubator, but it can help if you’re having trouble.
Don’t forget to check online for a large variety of incubators. Some will be localized, while others are national or even global. In addition, some incubators provide locations for you to visit, work through, and get mentorship, while others are solely online, and only offer their services to startups through the internet. It’s important to decide what you’re comfortable with and how you would like to interact with your incubator.
If you’re having trouble finding an incubator or want to look into several incubators at once, check out the state directories and search engine available through the National Business Incubation Association. Another option for finding local programs is to visit your local Small Business Association office.
Get ready to apply
Before you apply to work with a business incubator, you need to make sure that your business is at the right development stage. While it’s beneficial to find an incubator early in your business, there are a few steps you should take first.
Make sure you do your research on the different incubators you find. Not all incubators are the same, and they certainly don’t offer the same services and options. Find an incubator that works within your chosen industry. Learn more about what your chosen incubators offer in terms of services and physical resources. Is there a cost to being involved with the program? Does the incubator require you to relocate? It’s also important to make sure that you understand the requirements you’ll have, such as trainings, seminars, and curriculum you’ll need to go through to be an active part of the program.
Along with your research on the incubator, take some time to check in with alumni. Consider getting in contact with other companies that have worked with the incubators you’re interested in to find out the specifics of what they did while in the program.
Get your team onboard. While it’s possible to go through an incubator program alone, you are less likely to get chosen for one of these programs if you don’t have a strong team. Your team needs to work well together and be able to show this to the incubator panel. In some cases, incubators may take a strong team over a strong idea, since the people you have in place are generally more important than the ideas of the company you want to form.
Don’t forget to prepare your pitch. Before you even apply for an incubator program, you need to make sure you know what you’re going to say and how you will tailor it to each program.
There are a number of services and help that a business incubator can help with. As you’re building your business, consider getting help from a startup incubator when you are hindered by the business aspects below.
Have you ever found yourself getting stuck on the basics? This is one of the many things that a startup incubator can help you with. Whether it’s simply creating your business plan or understanding everything you’ll need for your company, your incubator allows you to touch base on the basics of your business.
Another huge benefit of working with a startup incubator is that you’re able to expand your networking opportunities. Incubators frequently get startups and established businesses together. This helps ensure that companies that need each other are able to easily work together. As you’re working with an incubator, you may be invited to business get-togethers, parties, and outings. The more of these that you go to, the more people and businesses you’re able to network with to help grow your business.
In some cases, your startup incubator will also be a financial help for you. Incubators may become investors, or introduce you to possible investors. They will work with you to help you understand the accounting and financial management your company needs to succeed in your chosen field. On top of this, working with a startup incubator is a great way to get access to loan funds, bank loans, and guarantee programs that you otherwise may not have access to. In some cases these incubators may even offer grants to help keep your business afloat.
Depending on the field your business falls under, you’ll likely have a variety of compliance and regulations you need to adhere to. However, navigating these can get confusing and frustrating. In addition, knowing everything you need to comply with as a small business is difficult. The startup incubator you work with can help you get through all the paperwork and problems you may encounter when trying to comply with the regulations. When you work with an incubator that is specific to your field, you can be comfortable with their knowledge of compliance regulations.
Are you putting together a presentation and need a little help? Reach out to your startup incubator for tips, tricks, help, and a pre-presentation audience. Mentors will help you tailor your presentation to the company, investor, or whoever else you’re presenting to. Tailored presentations help you land the business you need to grow and keep your business going. When you work with an incubator on your presentations, you’re better prepared for your next meeting.
Higher education resources
Since many incubators are run through higher education programs and schools, frequently you can find higher education resources through your incubator. These resources can vary, and may include the option to access seminars, find employees through the business program, and more.
Incubator programs are a great asset to small businesses and new startups around the world. Whether you’re looking for help with the physical office space your company needs, mentorship, or more, a startup incubator can help elevate your company to greater heights.