Business incubation contributes to long-term health of community

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This piece was written for submission to the Palladium-Item during my time on the board of Main Street Richmond-Wayne County. It never made its way to the paper, but I thought I'd post it here since it's still relevant.

It still strikes me how little we knew about everything that goes into running a business when we founded the technology company I work for, Summersault, in 1997. We were very confident about the services we wanted to provide and very focused on the clients with whom we wanted to work, but had plenty to learn about accounting, legal matters, hiring employees, and all of the other necessary but complex areas of knowledge one must dive into when doing business.

We had the good fortune to be associated with another technology company in town that was willing to help us get on our feet. They provided us with a small bit of office space, a few basic utilities and services, access to office equipment - all at very reasonable rates, often allowing us to defer hefty capital purchases while we were in our delicate initial years.

Perhaps most importantly, they provided some perspective and wisdom about starting a technology company in Richmond, Indiana. In essence, this company incubated Summersault to the point we had some experience with those parts of running a business that entrepreneurs never start out thinking about. They eliminated many of the barriers that start-up businesses face, and increased our chances of survival many times over. This arrangement was an informal one that we felt lucky to come by.

Starting this year, entrepreneurs starting up businesses in Richmond won't have to count on luck. The Uptown Innovation Center is a facility devoted to the incubation of new businesses in our area. As Summersault's benefactor did, the UIC will work with individuals to make their dreams a reality by providing below-market office space, access to tools and technology for managing a business, training and counseling on a wide variety of topics, and much more. Businesses that are incubated have a much higher survival rate than those that are not, and when a start-up business succeeds, it brings new economic and social wealth to the community where it lives. The UIC is our community's newest way of affirming to the innovators among us: "we want you to succeed."

I wish the Uptown Innovation Center had been around when we first started Summersault, but it is comforting to know that entrepreneurs in the region now have this incredible resource at their disposal, removing barriers and providing a helping hand towards successes that benefit the long-term health of our community. If you haven't already, I would encourage you to stop by the Center for a tour and more information.

Chris Hardie is Principal of Summersault Website Development.

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