Features October 2017 On The Cover

How Incubators Create the Businesses of Tomorrow


Written By: Rhina Garcia
In Gainesville, incubators have helped many factors of the local economy, including creating many local jobs, diversifying the economy and providing opportunity for underrepresented groups, such as minorities and women, to become successful entrepreneurs and business owners.

Starting a business can be difficult. There are various factors that need to be taken into consideration and it can be incredibly overwhelming for a small or even a large group of people. Between working all the kinks and bugs out, it is easy to be confused by the process. Many entrepreneurs find themselves asking “Where do I start?”

That’s where incubators come in.

Business incubators create an opportunity for new companies to gain knowledge and experience before being able to branch off on their own. Entrepreneurs have access to the resources that they need, along with guidance that can nourish their growing business. Companies later graduate from the incubation process, becoming self-sustaining and prosperous.

While many think of incubators as glorified office spaces, they actually help provide startups and entrepreneurs with the resources that they need to successfully start a business. They offer office space, equipment, mentors, personnel and much more.

In Gainesville, incubators have helped many factors of the local economy, including creating many local jobs, diversifying the economy and providing opportunity for underrepresented groups, such as minorities and women, to become successful entrepreneurs and business owners.

“Anybody that is looking to start a business here in Gainesville can find the help that they need,” said Bill Dorman, the director of the Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED) at Santa Fe College.

The CIED is one of the many incubators located in Gainesville. Dorman currently serves as the Entrepreneur in Residence, assisting small businesses with strategic planning and project execution.

“We have people who help with marketing, graphic design, human resources, accounting and pretty much anything that a new business would need help with,” Dorman said. “We have (many) resources available and if we don’t have (one), we have a great network in town and we can find them some help.”

Dorman hosts peer groups every Wednesday that asks the entrepreneurs important questions such as what is going well in their business, what goals they are currently trying to meet and specifically what kind of help they are in need of. Through these conversations, Dorman and the rest of the team at the CIED provide rich discussion and mentorship that help small businesses thrive.

“We help the members get started.” Dorman said.

The CIED offers its members free rein over their respective companies, while also allowing them some structure and mentorship. This model has become a key component in why many businesses prosper through the incubation process.

Aside from the CIED, Gainesville houses a number of business incubators in the area. All of these incubators have a unique set of resources that have allowed a diverse number of businesses to thrive under their guidance.

Examples of incubators in Gainesville include Gainesville Hackerspace, which provides engineers, scientists and artists a space to work on collaborative or individual projects. The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research has funded 71 companies specializing in life sciences, information technology and clean energy. Similarly, The Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute is recognized for its incredible laboratories and equipment. This past year, the incubator was recognized with the Global Science and Technology Incubator of the Year award.

Other incubators in Gainesville include the Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center,  UF’s Innovation Hub, GatorLab, the Newberry Main Street Incubators and many more.

All of these incubators have made an impact on Gainesville’s growing business economy. Without their guidance, many of Gainesville’s local businesses would not have the success that they have today.

That was the case for Captozyme, a biotechnology company that develops enzymes that can prevent kidney stones.

“(Incubators) help train the actual individual and not just the company,” said Helena Cowley, the CEO of Captozyme.

Cowley states that her experience atboth the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator and the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida have opened doors for Captozyme to become a thriving company in Gainesville.

“We would not be where we are today without the incubation experience,” Cowley said.

Both incubators provided Captozyme with resources that fit their needs. These included access to equipment, laboratories and research databases courtesy of UF libraries. For Cowley, what stood out is the extensive mentorship programs that the incubators provided.

“We were assigned a mentor and a task schedule in terms of goals and strategies,” Cowley said. “We created this time plan that they kept up accountable for so that was really hopeful.”

For a company like Captozyme, the process took about six years. The access to equipment and resources allowed the company to gain capital to apply for grants. Later, the company would began to incorporate professional services such as accounting, legal counsel and human resources. Captozyme graduated from the Innovation Hub earlier this year, allowing them to prosper as a business in the Greater Gainesville area.

For businesses currently in the incubation process, Cowley stresses the importance of taking advantage of all of the resources available.

“The biggest issue is when you don’t know what you don’t know,” Cowley said. “The only way to figure that out is to interact with other people that are further along than yourself and, for us, the incubation process provided that.”

 

RHINA GARCIA is a senior journalism major at the University of Florida who is known for
three things: loving co ee, being Hispanic and laughing at her own jokes. Harboring a love for all things entertainment, she hopes to one day work in the music industry as a publicist.

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