Edwin Sosa ran his fleet safety business out of his Orlando-area home for three years until he realized he needed full-time help. He didn't want employees traipsing in and out of his residence, however, so he began to explore startup incubators. After filling out an application and taking a six-week course on startup basics, Sosa set up shop in the University of Central Florida's Business Incubation Program in 2013.
Sosa's company, Embark Safety, supports companies with multiple vehicles, helping them monitor driver records and behavior and identify issues. The company also offers training to minimize dangerous and costly accidents. The average Embark Safety client owns 20 or more vehicles, says Sosa, and his client list is steadily growing. A startup incubator was the perfect first step for him for a number of reasons.
Accelerated growth. "A startup incubator allows you to speed things up," says Sosa. It provides a facility for workers to report to, taps into incubator partners for needed services and offers opportunities to network with entrepreneurs facing similar challenges and experiences.
Expert advice at a discount. Many industry experts who have partnered with an incubator are willing to provide advice at a reduced rate. Whether you need an attorney, an accountant, a graphic designer or sales training, for example, an incubator can point you to skilled advisors who are willing to work with incubator partners for less than their standard fee.
Built-in networking. Sosa has found networking with fellow entrepreneurs within the startup incubator more valuable than the physical work facility. "You join a community of business owners going through the same things you are, or who have already, and you can bounce ideas off them," he says. "They help ensure you don't make the same mistakes they did."
Reasonable cost. Although Sosa notes that the cost to rent space in an incubator is market-based, his payment of $300–400 per month is "marginal." As your business grows, you can move into a larger space within the startup incubator or at another venue.
Not for everyone. Startup incubators expect you to have an expanding enterprise, explains Sosa. "It's not for a lifestyle business" that exists solely to provide income for the owner, he says. That's not to imply a lifestyle business can't grow into a midsized venture, but the goals of the entrepreneur need to align with those of the incubator from the outset.
Equity stake. Although Sosa's startup incubator does not take ownership of its resident companies, many do. In exchange for access to mentors and resources, some incubators take percentages ranging from 5 to 50 percent of a business, which gives them an incentive to help these companies thrive.
"The incubator's goal is to get you on your feet," says Sosa, helping you grow a profitable, sustainable business that creates new jobs for your local community.
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