The nonprofit Business Innovation Center opened at Bowie State University in October, initially hosting four resident businesses.
More than five years in the making, the center will serve as an incubator for fledgling businesses, providing office space, equipment and receptionist services, coaching and mentoring, business plan support and other services with an eye to fostering strong companies that can provide jobs, revitalize neighborhoods and energize the local economy.
The center is the fruit of a partnership between the university and the city, which commissioned a feasibility study to determine how it could foster small business growth.
Every month, the innovation center committee meets to evaluate potential clients, examining business plans to see whether they’re growth-oriented and can eventually generate significant revenue.
After clients are identified, the newborn businesses start at the center as affiliate companies before moving on to become resident businesses and eventually graduate from the program. The process takes an average of two years, Lisa Smith, the center’s executive director, told Bowie Patch.
“Business incubation is a process,” said Smith.
Out of the 11 spots available at the center, four are being used by resident companies. There are also eight affiliate businesses just starting off with the program.
The Bowie center is one of three business incubators in Prince George’s County, but the first to be located at an historically Black university, Smith said. The center’s home at Bowie State has been a boon for students.
“We provide experiential learning opportunities for students,” Smith said of the innovation center’s intern program.
The location also benefits client companies, who receive the expertise of the university’s faculty in market research, media relations, mentoring and business plan creation among other things.