Fruita Business Incubator provides resources, guidance
Free Press Correspondent
In August 2013, the City of Fruita and Fruita Chamber of Commerce approached the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction with a sweet offer — a space at the Fruita Civic Center, free of charge, to help local businesses stimulate economic growth in the area. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“It’s a beautiful space, and we’re so grateful to the city for letting us use it,” said Annalisa Pearson, a program manager for Business Incubator. “A lot of businesses in Fruita are one-man shops, so it gives us the ability to get out and meet with them at their businesses, too.”
The large office located on the second floor of the Fruita Civic Center received new paint and carpeting before opening its doors in May 2013. Businesses can use it for a conference area, plus it accommodates one to two in-house businesses as part of the Business Incubation Program. This program allows new entrepreneurs to use office space for up to five years.
The first year’s rent is discounted by 25 percent off the market value of a traditional office space. Rent is increased annually by five percent, until it reaches the approximate cost of the business owner renting a location of their own.
Julie Morey, director of the Small Business Development Center piece, said the approach is less shocking financially when the business owner is ready to leave the nest.
“Sometimes it takes the full five years, but we also find that some businesses are ready much sooner,” she added.
The Business Incubator offers several opportunities for entrepreneurs, such as low-cost workshops, plus free coaching and mentorship. The Starting a Business workshop, presented twice per month, has been the most attended for over 20 years. Follow-up may include specialized coaching in business planning, licensing, Internet strategies, accounting and marketing. Clients usually see more than one coach based on their needs.
“It’s our mission valley-wide to create businesses and jobs, but it’s really up to the individual. We’re here as a tool and resource to help,” Pearson said.
Kathie Fingerson operates an alternative healthcare website, Healers of the Valley (http://www.healersofthevalley.com), with guidance from Pearson. She is in her second year and is experiencing strong growth.
“I receive weekly mentoring from Annalisa, who gives honest feedback, plus referrals to appropriate resources,” Fingerson explained. “As my business shifts and changes, she is the rock that encourages me to pursue what really makes me happy — being an alternative health promoter. With her help, I feel I’m allowed to make mistakes and learn along the way.”
Open Coffee Club is a chance for business owners of all professions to generate ideas and discuss common issues as well. They meet every third month at Aspen Street Coffee in Fruita (third Friday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon).
“Businesses that are completely different oftentimes have the same kinds of problems when it comes to employees and marketing or whatever, so it gives people the opportunity to talk with each other, meet fellow entrepreneurs and network,” Pearson said.
The nonprofit launched 27 years ago in a response to a boom-bust period. It was an experiment in business-incubation programs that were successful in other communities. The Business Incubator in Mesa County has 11 staff members, five of whom are coaches, plus 10 volunteer coaches.
Morey described the operation as a team approach, and she said the volunteers “want to donate their time because they’re excited about small business and want to see success in Mesa County. It allows us to serve over 450 clients per year, and we could never do that without them.”
Office hours at the Fruita location are Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. Appointments are recommended and additional times for coaching are available by request.
For more information on Business Incubator services in Grand Junction and Fruita locations, visit http://www.gjincubator.org or call 970-243-5242.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.