It's been a long time coming, but USC Upstate's business incubator is finally open for new tenants.
Two businesses have already moved into the 20,000-square-foot space on the third floor of the university's George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics, what some refer to fondly as "The George," in downtown Spartanburg.
The university has been planning an incubator in the previously unfinished space since the business school opened in 2010. Tentatively named The Center for Innovation and Business Engagement, the program will target companies and startups looking for flexible space in an educational environment.
But being a tenant is more than just office space, according the incubator director Erin Ouzts. Tenants have access to a range of startup services, from mentorship and advising from university faculty to access to classroom and presentation space.
The two existing tenants, CareIT LLC and Credda, moved in last month after the university received its certificate of authenticity at the beginning of the year. Several other businesses, such as CorrScan, have requested to view the space, which is leased for less than market rates and includes amenities such as Internet access, phone service and meeting facilities.
"It's a very versatile space, so as our companies grow from two to five, to ten employees, our space can reconfigure to fit that need," said Ouzts.
The incubator is only one of the options that area startups and entrepreneurs have to take their venture to the next level.
For example, the city of Spartanburg is in the second year of its Main Street Challenge competition, which will award three businesses $12,000 in rental subsidies for a location downtown along with startup business services. Spartanburg County's Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Development provides business services and over 363,000 square feet of warehouse and office space, making it the fourth largest in the U.S.
Spartanburg is also home to The Iron Yard Spartanburg, which offers co-working space at The Mill in addition to its small business accelerator.
While there's a need for incubators and working space, the USC Upstate's incubator is neither, said Ouzts.
"Those groups do what they do exceptionally well, and we feel like we don't need to do that," said Ouzts. "The vast majority of businesses will be bootstrapped and self-funded, and that's OK."
One startup the university is working with, for example, has already been through an accelerator, while another decided not to go the acceleration route, and another decided an accelerator didn't fit its current needs, according to Ouzts.
"We're targeting companies that want a flexible place to build their business and get the resources that they need on their own schedule," said Ouzts.
"There are many ways to grow the strength of a community and new business development. New venture development is one of the most enduring, and adding this incubator in downtown Spartanburg creates a kind of rallying point for all of us in Spartanburg and in the region," she said.
Read the full article from GSA Business here.
The Upstate SC Alliance will be hosting our Q1 Board Meeting at the George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics and our guests will be able to view the new incubator space.