More and more people are for a variety of reasons starting up their own businesses. It may be because they really feel that is what will give them the most satisfaction or it may be that they’re forced to do this because they cannot find regular employment. Whatever the reason, it is important to give yourself the best possible chance to make a success of your new venture.
There are so many things to consider. You have the legal aspects of setting up a business and ensuring you can keep adequate records for the tax man. There are all the headaches involved in being able to produce the products that you will sell into the marketplace. You must also consider what marketing you will do and how you will spread the word on what you offer. Then there is the question of how you can set up a base from which to run this business.
What are the possibilities?
Startup In A Garage
Perhaps the least daunting way is to run your business from your own garage or from a friendly neighbor’s garage. It seems to have worked very well for Larry Page and Sergey Brin since they now own the lion’s share of Google, one of the biggest corporations in the United States. It certainly forces you to focus on the realities of your business and how you can make enough day by day to survive.
Nevertheless around the world governments are realizing that more and more of their citizenry must become entrepreneurs and have shown real enthusiasm in helping them achieve that. One instrument that is often supported to do this is a business incubator.
What Is A Business Incubator
The Wikipedia entry for business incubator is a good introduction to what such an agency provides. Apparently the first example of this occurred in the USA in 1959 when Joseph Mancuso opened the Batavia Industrial Center in a Batavia, New York, warehouse. Since then that approach has spread like wildfire to the UK and Europe and now more widely around the globe. It can come in a variety of forms and sometimes is specifically geared to help particular kinds of enterprises.
For example a kitchen incubator is a business incubator dedicated to early-stage catering, retail and wholesale food businesses. They are mostly found in those countries with significant levels of food safety regulation where capital investment in commercial kitchen equipment can be extremely costly for a new business. These shared kitchen facilities are lent on a time slot basis to participants who can then develop their business to the stage where they can invest in their own kitchen facilities.
Another type is the Bioincubator, which is a building designed for housing R&D driven companies active in Life sciences. It is usually closely related to a neighbouring university. Entrepreneurs with feasible projects in Life Sciences are selected and admitted into the incubators, where they are offered a specialized menu of support resources and services.
In summary, business incubators aim to provide the resources and support that the budding entrepreneur needs to give the best chance of success. After all, starting a business is a real challenge and requires a number of things to be done correctly.
How Incubators Can Help Your Startup Success
A business incubator is much more than the physical building where it is located. Not all those who might wish to have their projects housed there are accepted. Here is a list of the 12 ways in which a business incubator can help you succeed with your business project.
1. Business Plan Testing Before Acceptance
Usually you must submit detailed information to a business incubator before they will sign a contract with you for the benefits you will be receiving and the responsibilities and costs you will be required to bear. The business incubator only wants to have projects that will succeed so this vetting which is necessary can also be a confidence builder for you if you are accepted.
2. Economic Space
Careful planning will have gone in to the design of the business incubator and there will usually be a variety of spaces that can accommodate your particular requirements. Check out a number of possible locations to be sure you’re getting a space that will work well for your operation.
3. Economic Business Services
Most business incubators will offer you a variety of business services that will help you to work more efficiently and at a better cost. This may even include administrative services such as a telephone answering service and a print shop service.him
Mentoring or coaching is perhaps the most powerful benefit you’ll get from operating from a business incubator. You will be matched up with someone with long business experience and with whom you relate well so that you accept what may sometimes be cold-shower advice which is difficult to accept but very important for you to follow.
The other benefit of working from a business incubator is that you will have neighbors who are attempting to beat the same challenges that you face. By staying in touch with them you can see how others are solving problems that arise and they may even have potential customers who might appreciate your services.
In some cases you may find that you can collaborate with another entrepreneur and offer joint services that give better value to your customers. At the very least there may be someone who is offering delivery services who is just down the corridor.
7. Support Services
Other entrepreneurs may be offering services that you may need from time to time. For example you might need banners for a local event you are posting and low and behold one of your neighbors prints vinyl banners.
8. Access To Lawyers
It is important to ensure that your business is run in full compliance with the law. Usually a business incubator will offer you access to a lawyer at a reduced fee to provide necessary legal services. In addition if you should run into a thorny problem that requires legal help, then this lawyer can also assist you on that.
9. Access To Accountants
Even though you may maintain your own accounting records, it is important to ensure that these are validated from time to time and there may even be requirements to have official accounting audits. Such services are usually available at a reduced cost from accredited accountants.
Most business incubators will offer workshops and courses to provide instruction on important aspects of running your business. This not only can improve your own abilities but is another opportunity to network with others who may be useful contacts.
Hopefully your business never runs into problems that require more heavyweight support. If it does, then the management of the business incubator can undoubtedly help you by bringing in whatever allies they can muster.
12. Access To Investors
It is perhaps a paradox but if your business goes well then undoubtedly you may need extra investment to fund this rapid growth. The business incubator will usually be able to help here with introductions to important sources of finance such as angel investors, state governments, economic-development coalitions and other investors.
Although the previous 12 reasons might seem unarguable, it is perhaps worth recording that there is a downside in being involved in a business incubator. The problem may be that there is so much going on with your participation in the activities of the business incubator that you could lose focus on just sticking to the essentials of running your own business and making it grow.
Incubators Around The World
The business incubator movement has grown strongly and there are many such agencies in most countries. In the United States, the National Business Incubation Association
covers most of the business incubators in US but has listings of others in over 60 countries. An article on Business Incubators published by Entrepreneur.com also provides some useful information.
Incubators In Pakistan
As might be expected, Pakistan like many other growing economies has its fair share of successful business incubators.
The most successful and widely known of these is Plan 9. This styles itself as a Startup accelerator, which is the other term often used for a business incubator. Its mantra is Grow & thrive!
Plan 9 accepts teams who are well integrated and are working on a tech based product. Young, fresh and inventive entrepreneurs may be stretched and may fall back in developing the right connections, gaining expert attention and covering seed investment. Plan9 provides an environment conducive to entrepreneurship that aims to resolve these hurdles. The entrepreneurs are rigorously engaged in trainings, mentoring sessions and product review sessions.
Assistance is provided in the following activities:
- Refinement of business plans
- Mentoring on product development
- Connecting with potential clients
- Advising on internal operations
- Connecting them with domain-specific mentors
- Safeguarding legal concerns
Two other business incubators are worthy of mention. The University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) has established a business incubation center (BIC) on July 2011 in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) at its Lahore campus. The Al-Sufah Business Incubator in Faisalabad is another which is worthy of mention.
Business incubators may not be for all entrepreneurs, but to those who find it fits their needs they can undoubtedly have a huge opportunity to successfully grow and thrive.