Parental approach helps small businesses succeed - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Parental approach helps small businesses succeed

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by Jenn Jarvis

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Some businesses are surviving and thriving in this rough economy thanks to a parental approach.

Mike Robinson is the newest client at the University of Northern Iowa's business incubator.

"The term incubator is great because you're babes, you know, and they kind of just nurse you along until you're able to stand on your feet," Mike Robinson, owner of Heal the Family, Inc., said

Part of the Regional Business Center in downtown Waterloo, the incubator provides advice and training that is crucial for many new business owners.

"They get you a business plan together, set you up with someone who's a professional in the field just so you're on the right track," Robinson said.

Turnkey Associates graduated from the incubator five years ago and moved into office space across the hall. Owner Scott Voigt says the office space and equipment are the most helpful for a company with little capital.

"They offered phone answering services. They had copy machines and fax machines and things that we didn't necessarily have to go out and buy as a new company," Voigt said.

The incubator started to not only help small businesses, but also revitalize downtown Waterloo. Before the Regional Business Center moved into its space on 4th Street, there was a 60 percent vacancy rate on the block, and now it's only 10 percent.

"Those businesses that graduate from the incubator will usually move within a mile and half of that facility," Senior Program Manager at the RBC, Mike Hahn, said.

After seven years in Waterloo, UNI opened incubators on campus in Cedar Falls aimed at technology start ups and students.

New business owner and UNI student Travis Steffens says the training has saved him time and money while starting his online fitness site, Allmuscle.net.

"I would probably be in school for a lot longer because I'd be having to take classes on all these things that they're teaching me right now just over lunch on Fridays," he said.

The safe environment and hands on help are changing the statistics when it comes to success.

"Usually when businesses start, when they start on their own, most cases without a business plan the success rate's around 20 percent...but then when they graduate the success rate's running around 90 percent for facilities like this," Hahn said.

The Regional Business Center offers advice and support to all small businesses, not just the ones in the incubator.

Since starting in 2001, the Waterloo business incubator has graduated 38 small businesses and created 56 jobs.

Online Reporter: Jenn Jarvis

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