Back in 2011, when I first started teaching my daughter and her friends how to cook from my home kitchen, I never imagined the potential for turning my itty bitty passion into something life changing for myself, or for others.
Fast forward to the end of 2015, and as I look back on yet another year of 60-hour work weeks, with little to no personal income, and an insane dedication to getting my baby off the ground. I can see why more than 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. In fact, a whopping 80% crash and burn according to Bloomberg. This failure rate breaks my heart.
I have often described my journey as the “yubba dubba doo” plane like trying to lift a massive stone structure into airborne status with a fury of running feet. This hopeful entrepreneur is always working by herself, in her living room, in her yoga pants and t-shirt, trying to change the world, just one person at a time.
With all financial resources exhausted to start this business including maxing out credit cards, family loans, exploited savings, and retirement funds gone, I can see why the risk and years of struggle can end as a statistical failure for many.
I say all this, not to scare you from your dream, but to encourage you to press on and to share some new resources that may take your business to the next level, incubators.
What is a business incubator?
A business incubator is defined as “A unique and highly flexible combination of business development processes, infrastructure and people designed to nurture new and small businesses by helping them to survive and grow through the difficult and vulnerable early stages of development.” – University of Cyprus
A business incubator can come along at just the right time, like the wind beneath your wings, to help guide and accelerate your business into the marketplace. In my case, this was the case with the USC Incubator (University of South Carolina).
Quite often, an incubator can provide free or nearly free services to help your business in all aspects such as legal, accounting, marketing, business structure, new development, partnerships, and more.
Incubator programs can also connect you with movers and shakers that already have the relationships in place to make things happen. The old adage of “it’s all who you know” could not be truer.
The National Business Incubator Association has more than 1,400 members in the U.S. and additional members in more than 60 other countries.
Some incubators provide a physical space for you to operate your business in while other incubators offer a virtual experience. Almost all incubators bring together company founders and members for problem-solving, networking, and mentorship.
The incubator opportunity can be a competitive process, but it is well worth the investment in time and energy. I applied to four incubator programs in the health space over the course of two years thinking my company was a perfect fit but unfortunately continued to receive “thank you for applying” letters each time. It wasn’t until I was introduced to a technology incubator, that the fit was made.
Technology incubators focus on helping businesses in the technology space such as application developers, software developers, engineering solutions, technology consultants, etc. I know you are likely asking … what on earth does a kid’s cooking business have to do with technology? Well, it turns out that my company, Healthy Hands Cooking, is strictly an online presence, so the need for custom website development, online training center, instructor portal, mobile applications, data matching, and statistics are all part of what we do. And USC’s technology incubator is the program that will help get us there.
I’m really exited about this new partnership and launch happening in early January 2016. With up to 3 years of business mentorship and services at my side, Healthy Hands Cooking has an even better chance of breaking the scary statistical barriers and soaring into the next decade.
In saying so, why not take a look at incubator opportunities for your own business? You can find a full list of connections for your state at the International Business Innovation Association.
Wishing you much success as you continue your entrepreneurial journey.