One of the most exciting new initiatives for WNCC is the development of a small business incubator. Approved by the Board of Governors in February 2011 as one of the four planks of WNCC's Strategic Plan, this Incubator is now among the nearly 30 business incubators located on community college campuses, according to the National Business Incubator Association.
Gallup research revealed that 74% of youth in Nebraska have aspirations of owning their own business at some point in their life. In addition, research indicates that 84% of incubator graduates stay in the community in which they have been incubated. Recent anecdotal research through Western Nebraska's P-16 Initiative also highlights the trend that many of our youth would either like to remain in their community of origin, or return to raise their families someday, provided there are opportunities for a meaningful livelihood. WNCC believes the time is right for this exciting new initiative.
Supports, Services, and Resources
Incubation involves several important aspects, including identifying:
- people with unique talent, skills, or ideas who are in need of the support services offered at an incubator;
- gaps in the marketplace where a niche is determined to be a possible opportunity; or
- local asset that could be cultivated and further developed into a business venture.
Incubation also involves identifying strategic, value-added resources and supports that marry well with the needs of the incubatees. Supports come in many forms and include many of the following:
- Coaching: articulated meetings with appropriate matches between coach and incubatee
- Mentoring: matching an individuals needs with an experienced adviser for guidance
- Monitoring: goals and benchmarks
- Financial technical assistance and support: accounting, lending, taxes, insurance, etc.
- Legal technical assistance: business entities, contracts, agreements, leases, patents, etc.
- Space: offices, industrial or production space, conference rooms, classrooms, utilities, furniture, etc.
- Equipment: fax, phone, computer, internet, copy machines, etc.
- Facility services: security, janitorial, snow removal, etc.
- Networking opportunities: internal with other incubatees and external throughout the community
Among the supports that will be offered at WNCC's incubator that differentiates it from most other business incubators are the educational offerings associated with it and required of our incubatees. Often, academically sponsored incubators include classes, workshops, and seminars aimed at providing information important to the success of any small business. Providing such educational supports has been an important mission of WNCC since the 1980s through the Business and Industry Division of the college. Now referred to as the Business and Community Education division of WNCC, numerous seminars, workshops and classes are offered throughout the panhandle and created to support microenterprises.
One of the most important questions we addressed as WNCC developed our incubator was: What growth are we attempting to achieve? Were we going to focus on the growth of jobs, wealth, the diversification of communities, or were we trying to create an entrepreneurial culture in the panhandle? Do we focus on start-up, young or emerging companies, or do we focus on already established but struggling businesses? Should we provide particular emphasis on youth and students, women and minorities, or home based or main street businesses? What about business owners seeking to transition their business to a family member, sell to a new owner, or those looking to exit? Upon careful and thoughtful consideration, we decided that the two most important criteria we will consider in identifying clients we can serve are:
- Will this business venture create new jobs?
- Is this business venture an appropriate fit for the supports and services provided through our academic-oriented incubator?
If you are interested in applying to be a client of the WNCC Business Incubator, you can complete an online admissions application. Once you have completed this application, it will be reviewed by a small group of leaders of WNCC, and then by members of the Business Incubator Resource Team, a dynamic and talented group of professionals representing a variety of industries and perspectives throughout the panhandle. If there is consensus that the application is viable, a face-to-face interview with several members from the Incubator Resource Team will be scheduled. This group will determine whether the client is an appropriate fit for the Incubator. The Incubator Resource Team members include:
- Ingrid Battershell, Small Business Development Center
- Brenda Darnell, USDA
- Chelsie Herian, Box Butte Development Corporation
- Deborah Feller, Grow Garden County
- Chuck Karpf, Panhandle Area Development District
- Tony Kaufman, Platte Valley Bank
- Megan McGown, Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce
- Aletia Norwood, WNCC Business Division Faculty
- Steve Olsen, Simmons Olsen Law Firm
- John Stinner, Valley Bank & Trust, Co.
- Jerry Terwilliger, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project
- Sami Webb, Webb Orthodontics
- Judith Amoo, Western Nebraska Community College
Would you like to volunteer?
If you have an interest, talent, skills, or experiences that would benefit future business owners in the panhandle, you are invited to contact Judith Amoo, Dean for Economic and Community Development at (308) 635-6702 for information or suggestions. Working in partnership with other organizations, agencies, educational institutions, and businesses has helped build an "entrepreneurial spirit" across our service district. We welcome the involvement and participation of a wide and varied range of partners and look forward to sharing stories of success, opportunities, and innovation that will help Nebraska grow and prosper.