Incubator spurring small business community

Monday, July 28, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Daniel Michaels, founder and chief executive officer of Keypoppy, worked Friday in his office at the small business incubator.

Since he moved in October into his office on the third floor of the Southeast Innovation Center at 920 Broadway, Keypoppy Christian Resources has outgrown its space and will move to another building in August. He credits the incubator for that success.

"The biggest advantage of choosing the incubator was the fact that I had space to train clients," said Michaels, who has worked in the publishing industry for 13 years. "And because a high percentage of businesses survive if the startup occurs in an incubator, [it] helped me get additional investors that I may not have gotten had I not chosen to come here. That credibility has contributed to my rapid expansion."

Since the incubator held its grand opening on June 21, 2007, small companies like Keypoppy have received valuable and low-cost assistance to grow their businesses and affect Southeast Missouri's economy.

Gina Harper, director of the incubator, said the goal is for businesses to outgrow their allotted space within three years.

"We provide businesses with resources they need to graduate within that time frame," Harper said. "By then, our hope is they will have grown to the point that they can be effective enough where they can provide more jobs to the area."

Already one business, River City Biologicals, has moved out of the incubator. Keypoppy will vacate the premises July 31.

The incubator has 13 office spaces ranging from 150 to 1000 square feet, and rent is $15 per square foot. Included in the rental fee is daily mail service, weekly janitorial services, all utilities, free parking, Internet capabilities and 24-hour building access. Incubator businesses also have use of a conference room and state-of-the-art training room.

Available to the businesses are business development and planning services, intern assistance and off-site equipment and product testing.

Businesses eligible to rent space are in the areas of research, light manufacturing, technology or service. Harper said the center is not for all interested business startups.

"We are not a place for a business to rent extra space," Harper said. "If they have grown that much, then [they] don't need the services of an incubator. Our mission isn't to give extra space to businesses but rather lease out space to those [that] are starting up and want to use the space we have available."

The incubator is made possible through support from AmerenUE, the Department of Economic Development and lease payments.

When the incubator opened on Southeast Missouri State University's campus, it was the sixth such center to open in the state. Now, 13 are in operation in Missouri. Harper said the success rate is a reason why incubators are gaining in popularity.

"Research shows us that businesses experience an 80 percent survival rate if they start up in an incubator versus a 20 percent success rate if they begin outside of one," Harper said. "We are promoting that everything you get for one low price is a better location than moving to a strip mall that lacks all of the amenities that we can give."

The Tailor Institute moved into the Innovation Center in July 2007. Since then, director Elaine Beussink said the amenities and ability to enhance relationships with Southeast professors has contributed to its success. BeusÂżsink said the institute plans to move to another location in Cape Girardeau by May.

"The development opportunities here at the center have helped us develop more relationships at a low cost to our institute," she said. "As a young business, we would not have been able to afford Internet, phone service and other associated utilities, but the incubator has helped us to do that. And because we are closely assimilated into the university's identity, our stay here has helped us build upon those relationships that will help further the cause of our organization."

Harper said future plans are to expand the incubator beyond the Southeast campus for businesses that need larger office space.

"But it's a concept now and is ever-evolving," Harper said. "We are here to serve businesses as they seek to grow and impact this region."

More information on the Small Business Incubator can be found at www.semo.edu/innovation or by calling the Innovation Center at 651-2929.

bblackwell@semssiourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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