Business incubator piques entrepreneurs’ interest

Published 5:47pm Friday, March 2, 2012

Lisa Croteau is hoping to birth some new businesses in Niles in the coming years.

And the Niles Main Street director believes the Niles Entrepreneurial and Culinary Incubator, set to open in May, is just what is needed to make that happen.

Funded by $20,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money, the business incubator will feature kitchen and office space for area entrepreneurs to start and grow their business.

The incubator is located in the upper level of the Leader Publications building on North Fourth Street in Niles in the old Pickwick Club and will be available to rent at a rate of $20 an hour to start.

In order to sell food products in Michigan, it is required to prepare it in a certified kitchen like the incubator.

Croteau said there is a “huge anticipation” for the kitchen’s opening. There are more than 20 people who have already expressed interested in renting the space.

“It’s like waiting for Christmas morning,” Croteau said.

But before people can use the kitchen, they will need to take an introductory business and entrepreneurship class. The classes, taught by Michiana business counselors, will cover all the basics of entrepreneurship, including drafting a business plan.

Croteau said the classes are just as much about weeding out those who aren’t truly dedicated as it is about preparing those serious about starting successful small businesses.

“They will try to talk people out of starting a small business,” Croteau said. “Way too often people don’t realize what it takes to start a business. There is nothing more depressing than someone who gets into it with unrealistic expectations and fails.”

The classes begin March 19. There is also a full offering of other classes scheduled, including courses on financing a business and food safety.

The goal for the incubator is to give clients an idea if they have what it takes to start a business. If it takes off, the incubator staff will help business owners find their own space when they outgrow the incubator’s kitchen and office space.

Croteau ultimately hopes the incubator will become a regional hub for entrepreneurs.

“There really are no entrepreneurs clubs around here,” she said. “Maybe we can become that, so we can help the entrepreneurial spirit keep its fire.”

An open house for the Niles Entrepreneurial and Culinary Incubator will be scheduled for the spring.

For a full schedule of classes available, contact Niles Main Street at (269) 687-4332.

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