Business Incubator Doubles Size
By Abbie Bennett
September 4, 2014 - A partnership that provides space for entrepreneurs to seed and grow their businesses has doubled in size and offers them greater accessibility, organizers said Wednesday.
In its pilot stages, the Greenville Support Economic and Entrepreneurial Development program, a partnership led by the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce, provided local entrepreneurs a 1,200-square-foot turnkey environment on the first floor of the Self Help Credit Union on West Third Street to cultivate business ideas for 90 days at no cost.
Now SEED’s space has more than doubled to about 3,000 square feet on the second floor of The East Group office on Evans Street, according to program board member Scott Senatore, president of the chamber.
Not only do startups have a place to work, they have around-the-clock access to professional office space with a variety of options.
There are communal desks at $50 per month all-inclusive, as well as $125 cubicles and $500 private offices, organizers said. SEED has grown its offerings for fledgling businesses in a more central location that one business already is raving about.
Vin McCaffrey, CEO of software company The Game Theory Group, said proximity to downtown, especially to East Carolina University, is a boon for his business.
“Our interns can walk here,” McCaffrey said. “This makes things so much easier and is a great resource being downtown.”
Not only is the space larger, it includes a break room, wireless Internet, a conference room and other amenities.
There no longer is a limit on the amount of time a business can spend with SEED. But board member Casey Verburg said that does not mean SEED wants businesses to stay around forever.
“We want to see them grow, that’s why we have it set up in steps,” Verburg said. “If someone is with us for seven months and isn’t growing, something’s wrong.”
The 90-day time constraint often limited the growth and progress of entrepreneurs involved in SEED, according to Senatore.
“After three months, if there was a budding entrepreneur or someone that was on the cusp of doing things great, they had to leave,” Senatore said. “That was frustrating to us because there’s a chance on day 92, 93, 94 that they go down a path that they’re not in business or lose momentum. We want to hold on to that momentum and energy.”
SEED also has garnered private partners such as Suddenlink Communications, Greenville Utilities Commission, Greenville TV and Appliance, CopyPro and Taff Office Equipment Co. that have helped improve the new SEED location as a place for businesses to work and bring clients, Senatore said.
The new office has bright paint and views of downtown, including the Pitt County Courthouse clock tower.
The changes that brought SEED from version 1.0 to 2.0 do not change the program’s mission to help foster startup businesses; they only make it better, officials said.
“We can offer so many more opportunities and have even more resources,” Verburg said.
“We’re just better able to achieve that mission,” Senatore said.
SEED not only provides space and resources, Senatore said, but connects entrepreneurs to opportunities such as applying for small business grants offered by the city.
“Being able to make all of those connections is an asset I think most people don’t really think about,” Verburg said. “And having other entrepreneurs to lean on.”
Six entrepreneurs are enrolled in the SEED program, according to Senatore, and the city uses the program as a recruiting tool to bring other startups to the city.
The program hosts networking events periodically, Verburg said, and those events are open to more than just those working in the SEED office.
“We get people all the time who walk into the event who have never heard of SEED but they make that connection right there,” Verburg said.
The first pilot program ran three times for three months each and involved 19 entrepreneurs.
Previous graduates of the SEED program include Campus Corner, a high-end men’s clothing store located in the superblock development downtown, and Longleaf Brewing Company, hoping to locate on Dickinson Avenue and become Greenville’s first dedicated microbrewery.
Contact Abbie Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9579. Follow her on Twitter @AbbieRBennett.