Opened in the past two years, the nine incubators currently host more than 500 start-up businesses and more than 800 jobs. Many businesses have already graduated from these incubator spaces and expanded into fully-established enterprises.
Business incubators are programs designed to accelerate the development of small, start-up companies through the economical rental of equipment and work space.
The centers offer an array of resources and services, including help with business basics and presentation skills, marketing assistance, and networking activities, as well as information on regulatory compliance and access to venture capital and bank loans.
Successful completion of a business incubation program increases the likelihood that a start-up company will stay in business for the long term. Studies found 87 percent of incubator graduates stayed in business, in contrast to 44 percent of all firms.
Carolyn Sevos Hamilton, proprietor of YouCake.Com, makes eatable graphic images for cakes, cookies and cupcakes, and needed work space as a printing facility for her product.
She heard of the Entrepreneur Space, a 12,500-square-foot incubator in Long Island City that caters to the food industry, through several women’s business associations. She started renting upstairs office space in March.
“Conveniently, I work with bakers and caterers in the four commercial-grade kitchens downstairs filling orders for cookies and cupcakes,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton sells packaged, customized products for birthday parties, special events and bridal showers via phone and e-mail orders and from her web site.
“In this tight-money economy, the city-subsidized rents are quite reasonable and the instruction on taxes, insurance, licensing, staffing, food safety and other business support services are all offered under one roof,” she said.
Currently, 120 businesses use the kitchens to produce items ranging from Whoopie Pies, Indian delicacies, Italian pretzels, chocolate truffles, cakes and cookies to organic dog biscuits and catering services.
Currently, the 120 entrepreneurs fill about 60% of the incubator capacity.
For a year now, Meg LaBarbara, a former tourism consultant and dog groomer, has been making makes appetizer dips and spreads - called Dinners Almost Finished For You – which she sells to local farmers markets.
“Entrepreneur Space is where small startups can blossom,” she said, “with help offered every step of the way from classes and workshops to one-on-one supervision and coaching.”
LaBarbara says much business is done right on the floor of the four kitchens. “I can negotiate my dips for wedding cakes with caterers without leaving the building,” she said.
The Entrepreneur Space provides access to its business seminars and job training programs through the Queens Economic Development Corporation. The parent New York City Economic Development Corporation provided a $170,000 grant to support its launch and operations.
Pat Pilla found Entrepreneur Space through an Internet search and started renting in April for an eight-hour shift twice a month.
She produces mini cheese cakes in chocolate, called Chee Bonnet, and sells to restaurants, gourmet shops and catering halls. She gets out the marketing message with her new web site and by blogging.
Pilla attended a five-week marketing and business planning course with the opportunity to sell her products to invited food industry representatives at the graduation day ceremony.
“I really like the networking possibilities and the open house events attended by shop owners and caterers,” she said.