Chamber begins small business incubator project

Chicks, up close and personalJim Krajewski, reporter at the Freeman Journal, broke the news that we have begun an incubator project.  With his permission, we are reprinting the article here.  Thanks Jim! 

A new project aims to help individuals open small businesses in Webster City.

The Webster City Incubator Project, sponsored by the Webster City Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, has partnered with several parties to assist individuals who would like to open their own business. The incubator project offers reduced rent, help creating a business plan and a free hour of inspection from local construction and engineering businesses.

Chamber director Deb Brown said the project encompasses two storefronts on 2nd Street between Willson and Des Moines in Webster City. Both storefronts are owned by Connie (and Ron) Gilbert, who has allowed the use of those buildings for free for the first three months and at reduced rent for the rest of the year.

“[Gilbert] is invested in this project and in the community of Webster City,” Brown said. “She’s helping us to get others to invest in the community too.”

The North Central Iowa Small Business Development Center is also assisting with the project. For no cost, the Center will help individuals that open a business through this project with setting up a viable business plan. The plan will emphasize customer description, market and industry, competition, competitive advantage, marketing and more.

“When I first came here, I partnered with them. I knew, coming from Franklin County that they’ve done things like this before. It’s what they do, it’s what the state provides,” Brown said. “It’s a great program.”

Project participants will also have an hour worth of time from Joel Peterson of Peterson Construction and Wayne Schlofeldt of Schlofeldt Engineering to look at the building. Both will look for structural defects, potential non-structural modifications, the state of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems and water damage. They will give recommendations based on their findings and can answer case specific questions.

All of these tools are aimed at people who would like to open their first small business. Brown said this program is aimed at those individuals and not established businesses looking to expand.

“An egg incubator helps warm the chick and help it grow. Eventually, it grows out of that incubator, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this project. We want to incubate a business for a year to help it get established here in Webster City,” Brown said.

The idea for the project came from The Tour, which allowed the public to look through 11 vacant locations in downtown Webster City in late April. The Tour received national coverage and spawned several Tour events in other parts of the nation, including a nearby Tour in Jewell. Brown said it brought about this idea to get those storefronts filled. However, Brown said getting that foot in the door for a new business can be difficult.

“When Electrolux closed, people went back to school to learn things to start their own business,” Brown said. “So, if you go from an environment where you’re working for somebody else and step into an environment where you want to work for yourself there’s a learning curve there and we want to help make that curve shorter.”

Both the new incubator project and The Tour are the first of their kind in Webster City. Brown said that the Chamber will consider holding another tour of vacant buildings next year, and the incubator project can continue as more property owners offer their spaces to the project. For the project to work, Brown said Webster City needs individuals who are dedicated to their business and the city.

“We’re looking for people to invest in Webster City,” Brown said.

– Reprinted with permission from:

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