Now that the center has a business license and bank account it needs to find the perfect location. The ideal space will be a wide open setting with room enough for a reception area, showroom, and 4-8 tables. Plus an area for shared business machines, a business library, Internet café, and conference room.
How does someone find this space? I mentioned in previous chapter that handouts and charity go against most capitalist values. In the case of the center’s initial location, what will be shown to the entrepreneurs is an example of prudence. This will be done by looking first at blighted building, warehouses, abandon factories, unused government offices, and vacant commercial offices.
The key point is to present the entire plan to the owner of these properties as an asset to them. If free rent is out of the question start off by knowing the annual property taxes. Work the lease price up from there. Most building owners have at sometime themselves been a starting entrepreneur. They will also see a great need for the type of service that will be provided. After all, the location is empty because a business like this incubator never existed in the community before.
After the center has identified a desired location, work to set up a lease of at least a year and enlist the building owner as the first supporter. Consider naming a room, office, or meeting area after him or her. Now the community knows who is instrumental in creating jobs in the community. Also work on an agreement to expand once businesses break out of incubator from their initial stages. Each new business will soon need their own office spaces. Make the building owner’s additional properties and office locations the first choice once it comes time for expansion, if the prices are competitive.
Once the location is settled, then it is time to work on the setup. This is fairly simple as well. Basically, the incubator and accelerator will set up an office setting for 4-8 micro businesses. The essential items are chairs, tables, desks, a fax-scan-copy hub, 2 laptops, and some shelving. For less than $1000, the entire incubator and accelerator can be outfitted.
Think thrift. The establishment will be incubating prudent young companies. The goal is not be a Feng Shui tech company from Silicon Valley. The idea is to foster young entrepreneurs with bright ideas in the community. The setting most importantly has to provide a space for businesses to grow, collaborate, and learn. The center should have expenses low enough that it can stay in business for years even in the harshest of economical conditions. This is the time when the community will be in the greatest need of new jobs and ideas. The new incubation center will be poised and ready to prosper.
Another idea to lower the initial setup cost would be to pitch the incubator and accelerator to local business leaders, judges, governmental officials, principals, and executives. Let them know the incubator and accelerator’s basic needs for used tables, chairs, desks, computers, and other business items. Most companies and agencies discard these items at the landfill on an annual basis. There should be no problem finding items to fill 4-8 office and collaboration spaces.
For computers one can ask the same. If the center is unable to obtain them free I will suggest the same computer I have created all 16 of my books and 4 websites with. An old school Dell 610, with 60gb of memory and 2ghz of RAM, for approximately $65-$85 on E-bay. This will give the incubator and accelerator all the computing power it needs to get started and allow students to take free college online courses. An incubator and accelerator should use older machines like I suggest. They can easily be fixed, parts interchanged, and this plan keeps the systems simple. This allows the focus to be on the real reason the center is there, incubating and accelerating businesses.
Furthermore, most people who come into the incubator and accelerator will already own a laptop. The center can put the expense on the members to bring their own computing power to the office. Most of them will anyways.
Shelving will also be essential for both the free business book library the center will offer the community a showroom of goods and services. This sales floor is used to showcase the businesses within the incubation center, provide training for workers, and generate revenues. If it is impossible to find a business or entity that is throwing away shelving I suggest asking local landfill workers, checking craigslist, or buying conventional lumber from a home improvement. Then build custom low cost shelving.