Friday, December 3, 2010

What is a Business Incubator anyway? The Role of Business Incubation in Communities

Business incubation is a term describing a business development process that is used to grow successful, sustainable entrepreneurial ventures that will contribute to the health and wealth of local, regional and national economies. Incubators provide a place for businesses to build their foundations.

Business incubators use a combination of physical space, resources and services to help developing businesses progress, thereby breaking down the barriers to success, reducing risk and increasing the chances of survival and success of early stage ventures. They connect enterprises with vital support.

How is this achieved?
All incubators are united in their provision of:
-          A beneficial environment that contributes to the development of entrepreneurial ventures as well as fostering networking between incubator clients and creating business opportunities;
-          Ready access to mentors, advisors and potential sources of capital (government assistance and potential investors)
-          Visibility and profile in the marketplace.

Incubation environments are usually located in areas with good communications and desirable address. They offer flexible space, short term leases, favourable rates and shared resources and equipment.

Does that mean that incubators are basically serviced offices?
No.  Incubators are different from serviced offices and accountancy firms (which offer financial and company incorporation services) by the breadth of support they offer using a defined progress path for enterprise development and specific business incubation processes.  The role of the incubator in the community means that diverse support and expertise can be offered through a network of contacts. Support is impartial, rather than tied to a particular supplier (private incubators may be different). Most incubators will have an entrance and exit policy for clients and define key milestones for the business to track, monitor and expedite progress.

Incubators often have a specific remit, usually reflected by the goals of the primary sponsor.  This may be to help the development of emerging sectors or focus on high-value or knowledge based businesses. Business incubators exist for all sectors and can even include kitchen incubators (for rural or food industry) and creative incubators (for arts, music and film).  

Incubators are often linked with academic institutions assisting graduate start-ups and university spin-outs seeking to licence intellectual property or commercialise technology.

Possible Outcomes of Business Incubation:
-          Job Creation
-          Technology Commercialisation
-          New Business formation
-          Wealth creation
-          Tax Revenue Generation
-          Neighbourhood revitalisation & regeneration
-          Economic diversification
-          Community Development
-          Empowering women, minorities and low-income individuals
-          Encouraging an entrepreneurial culture in communities that have long relied on large corporations for employment.

What is the benefit to the local and business community?
Incubators are part of a larger value chain.  Most incubators connect their clients to local services providers (such as lawyers, corporate service providers or accountants) establishing relationships that will last after the company leaves the incubator.
Once an enterprise is ready to leave the incubator environment, they will need space to move into, giving a boost to property developers and landlords.  Business incubation provides credibility through process so landlords can be more confident that a stable, growing business can be a reliable tenant.

In this way, it is in the interests of local service providers, government and incubators to work together to give growing enterprises the best start possible to make them sustainable and successful to generate more business for the area.  For this reason, many service providers will provide free or reduced services for incubator clients. Similarly, experienced business people work with incubators to act as mentors or advocates for the incubator as most entrepreneurs are happy to share their experience with a new or aspiring entrepreneur.

Why do governments support incubators?
Small and growing businesses are the backbone of the economy.  Enabling their success is a sure-fire way to enhance the economic development of a region, creating wealth, economic growth and jobs.

This is why, in response to the global economic challenges of recent years, the US, UK and other countries have stepped up their support for incubators and highlighted the importance of supporting new business and entrepreneurs to stimulate economic growth.  President Obama this year proclaimed National Entrepreneurs' Day in the US to honour entrepreneurs and their role as catalysts for creating new industries, businesses and jobs.  During Global Entrepreneurship Week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron urged “more people to make a job rather than take a job".

Entrepreneurship and therefore incubation, is higher on the agenda than ever before as communities look towards small business and entrepreneurs to grow and perhaps save economies as we go into the next decade.

Additionally, incubator subsidies have a high pay-back value, creating longer lasting impact and more jobs that capital projects. Furthermore, companies receiving incubator support are more likely to remain in the local community.

Incubation and broader economic development strategies: inward investment
As well as starting and retaining businesses in the local community, incubators commonly have a role to attract new business to a region.

To this end, some incubators offer “soft landings” programmes to attract and support non-national companies and operations to a region (inward investment). 

The Isle of Man Business Incubator (BIC) offers this facilitated support to companies considering and in the process of locating to Isle of Man.  BIC’s present Soft Landings programme is free and assists potential Isle of Man locators by helping them learn about the Isle of Man, planning facilitated visits tailored to their needs, providing the introductions and knowledge they need (connecting with both government and private sector) and giving them space and support once they get to the Isle of Man. This makes business relocation much easier and less expensive, helping businesses get the full advantage of setting up offshore.  

Going the extra mile (or more) 
BIC also has contacts in key markets across the globe to help client businesses expand from their Isle of Man base.

I work at a private sector firm offering financial and company services - how do we get involved with the incubator?
Great!  BIC wants to work with you and hear about any particular benefits you can offer fledgling businesses or companies relocating to the Isle of Man.

We can help add value to your clients / services and convert your prospects if you let them know about BIC or pass enquiries to us.  Since we are not competing, we can work together and the incubator can help with very early stage ventures that will hopefully become long lasting relationships for you.

The Isle of Man and Business Incubation
The Isle of Man’s independence, resilience, diverse economy, infrastructure and offshore status  makes it an attractive home for growing businesses, offering a range of financial incentives for businesses locating here. BIC’s support helps unlock that, offering people the chance to get a greater return and reward for their activities. 

It’s not all about tax, finance or inward investment however. Business incubation on the Isle of Man will help people wishing to take charge of their own destiny and lifestyle, helping them create ventures in a supportive environment, reducing the risk as they take the leap into running their own business.  As the world shifts in focus and priorities, the outlook for incubation and entrepreneurs on the Isle of Man as we go into the next decade will be more support, more freedom, sustainable enterprises and a valuable point of difference for a small but important offshore jurisdiction supporting entrepreneurship.

For more info about BIC’s services visit

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fantastic Feedback from Marketing Clinic Event

We got some fantastic feedback from the businesses and entrepreneurs assisted at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and BIC marketing clinic event, so I thought I'd post it here.

Thanks go to the CIM consultants for volunteering their time and expertise, Capital International for their support as sponsor and of course all the businesses who participated.

“I had a very good meeting and feel that I am more secure in what I am doing to promote our Company to take it forward and also got some good ideas from the consultant too. You can never learn enough about running a business and it is satisfying to know that the Isle of Man Government do everything in their power to support small business.”

“The appointment was of benefit to my business – the consultant had some great practical ideas to get me focussed and started. 45 mins was sufficient to offer some meaningful advice. Kate was also there to follow up on some general business advice”.

“We found the event both of interest and it was helpful to us as we found our advisor knowledgeable in terms of building a marketing plan.”

“We had prepared in advance a fairly comprehensive plan so it was pleasing to hear from our advisor that we had not missed any glaring modules in our implementation.”

“It clarified that we are on along the right lines with marketing but as always we have a very restrictive budget for this."

“It was lovely to meet you and thank you for forwarding the extra details to me, it's very much appreciated.”

“Congratulations on holding such a successful Marketing Clinic, I know I received a great deal from my meeting.”

"The appointment was very beneficial to me – it confirmed I was on the right track with many of the things I am doing and highlighted/gave ideas of what else I could be doing”

"Very relaxed and professional – they gave their full attention and really good advice. At no point did it feel like a free advice appointment!”

“I found the meeting to be of great help and has reinspired me to move forward, it’s a difficult time for many, especially new business. I found the consultants ideas and thoughts very helpful indeed and would highly recommend her."

"The meeting was very beneficial and all the people I met were professional and helpful. It gave me ideas to look into to promote my business and think clearly about customer perception.”

“I found the event very worthwhile and the consultant had a good understanding of the nature of the business I’m in and the type of clients I need to reach. He had some great ideas and suggestions that I now need to follow up.”

"For the first time in 175 years I now believe that my business now has the basis of a marketing strategy. Cathy who we saw carefully explained the 7Ps, something that I had never been aware of. From this we have been able to "sort ourselves out" rather than relying on advertising as and when it feels like a good idea. Here's to the next 175 years!"

“Thank you for last week. I know how much organisation that sort of thing takes and wanted you to know how much I appreciated it.”

“Huge thank-you for all the useful information that you willingly provided. I feel inspired and energised!! I very much appreciate your practical advice.”

“The Clinic was really good and of great benefit.”

“I was very impressed with the professionalism and friendliness of the Chartered Marketer that I consulted with. She had at her fingertips easy solutions to what I thought were problems. A very inspiring consultation.”

“Just wanted to say thank you for the appointment it was very helpful- the guidance is already helping. Just sent 2 emails and they both came back and said they love the web site ! A big thank you!”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Success for First Ever Marketing Clinics Staged on the Isle of Man

Marketing clinics organised by The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and Isle of Man Business Incubator (BIC) were a resounding success for local businesses.

At the first event of its kind on the Isle of Man, thirty businesses from a broad range of sectors including manufacturing, software, local produce, healthcare, retail and professional services benefitted from tailored expert marketing guidance provided by twelve Isle of Man chartered marketing professionals who donated their time to provide dedicated 45 minute appointments.

Kate Lord, Isle of Man Business Incubator said, “The outstanding success and interest in the marketing clinics shows the appetite of local businesses to access continued learning opportunities to improve business performance and be competitive. That we can hold this event using local expertise is evidence that investment by government in professional programmes, such as CIM and business start-up support works and has payback and value in the broader business community.”

Participating businesses were a mix of graduates and clients of BIC, Small Business Start Up Scheme and local businesses, established and new. Endorsement and feedback was excellent with most participants saying the advice benefitted their businesses, provided focus, helped them look at the most profitable activity and inspired them to achieve more.

CIM Isle of Man Chair Cathy Cowin said: “We are delighted at how successful this event has been. The feedback we have received is wonderful and we are pleased to have been able to facilitate this event and offer marketing expertise to a cross-section of local businesses. It was the perfect time to stage the clinics, during a week which celebrates marketing. We hope to host this event again as it provides a helping hand to professionals in what is an important and essential process.”

The clinics were held during Marketing Week at the new Isle of Man Business Centre with the generous support of Capital International.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Entrepreneurs and Enterprising People

Are you an entrepreneur? Entrepreneurs are
“People who create and innovate to build something of perceived values around opportunities they spot”
Bill Bolton and John Thompson

Spotting opportunities is the key – ideas are great, but how many convert to successful ventures? Inventors on the other hand, may not be entrepreneurs - but a capable entrepreneurial team may lead to successful commercial exploitation.

Enterprising people also build businesses, but not ones with comparable growth and overall impact. They might be micro businesses operating locally or in niche markets; lifestyle businesses or “mom & pop stores” not seeking growth opportunities. Both entrepreneurs and enterprising people are important contributors to growing the economy and most regions have business support schemes for both.

What sets entrepreneurs apart?

• They create, innovate and build something of value, working on their business rather than for it.
• Growth momentum is maintained with opportunity after opportunity, often building business after business.
• Entrepreneurship is a way of behaving that drives the change agenda. Entrepreneurs are not just found in business (see also Intrapreneurship). It involves positive attitude, ability to work with and persuade others and a capability to look at the bigger picture.
• They engage with contacts, resources and support to enable advantage.
• They proactively manage their own CPD and take responsibility for their development and positioning.

The Entrepreneur Indicator

Bolton & Thompson have developed framework for spotting entrepreneurial potential based on character themes.

Use it to measure your entrepreneurial potential – you can even use their online indicator at

FACETS is an acronym for
• Focus – targets and delivers
• Advantage – picks the winning opportunities
• Creativity – comes up with ideas
• Ego – inner – drives you ever forward Ego – outer – meets the challenges head on
• Team – multiplies your potential
• Social – delivers on a cause

Are you an entrepreneur in waiting on the Isle of Man?

Business incubators are key resources for enabling entrepreneurs, so contact yours now. Our incubator, Isle of Man Business and Innovation Centre, can help develop your idea and grow your venture. Contact 01624 820930 or .

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Websites on a Budget (or with no budget)

Ah, the tangled web of web design! This topic comes up frequently, where can you start?  Before you do, consider the following and avoid wasting time and money.  
  • Purpose- is it a brochure site, primary route to drive sales, an e-commerce site?
  • Budget-  how much can you spend - and remember even "free" takes up your time (or someone else's). 
  • Content management solutions- think beyond the first site build - so you have a glitzy site by a pro web developer - are you happy to incur a cost each time you need a change?  Or do you need to alter content quickly, with a WYSIWYG editor.
  • Your capacity - can you / should you do it on your own?  Do you need outside help?
  • Logos and branding - if you have a logo, can you access it in various formats and integrate into the website, maintaining a good quality?  If you don’t have a logo yet, tackling your corporate branding and website at the same time is a good idea.
  • Key Messages – Decide on key messages.  Be concise, avoid repetition, redraft for tight copy.     
Getting online - the options
  • Online web design packages: Free and inexpensive online solutions do the job for many start up and small businesses with a limited budget.  Step-by-step support, templates, packages for e-mail marketing, hosting, multiple mailboxes and sometimes even logo design provide a good, if not unique starter solution.  If you can use Word, you can use solutions like provided by Google SitesMicrosoft Office Live Small BusinessGoDaddy and Vistaprint .  Easy content management is what these solutions are all about. Do your research on limitations though - for example, Microsoft's solution is good but will not integrate with the Isle of Man (.im ) country code TLD.  You can get a site up with a couple of hours work.  
  • Online Packages with professional support:  Specialist support or pro-designers work for you with the above online packages.  Source specialists through the provider or companies like Elance.  
  • Freelance Contractors: Can be seemingly very cheap (hmmm) but what is the working relationship and ultimate cost?  When outsourcing to a remote worker, make sure you have a clear working agreement, clear communication / reporting, set project milestones with outputs, a completion date defined and a payment structure that works for you both. Get referrals and testimonials when working with freelancers. 
  • Web design / marketing companies*: Pro services create pro websites that will grow with your company's needs. Bonuses are that they take care of your marketing and CRM needs and you can have an ongoing relationship with them.  Talk about content management at the outset.  There may be a system such as Graffiticms  that can work for you. Compare providers and meet them face to face.
*Note: The Department of Trade and Industry's Business Support Scheme can help with funding for web design as part of a Marketing Project.  Isle of Man service providers accredited for this scheme will be able to assist.  

  • Relying on a trusty friend-of-a-friend who can sort your new business website for you, no problem is risky.  Do you really trust them with your fledgling business and apply pressure at  deadlines?
  • Learning real web development (mark up and coding) takes up lots of time and won't make you any money unless it is your core business.  
  • Freelancers who are not near enough to deal with personally when they do not deliver can ruin projects, schedules and budgets. 
  • Poor web copy is easily created.  Review, edit and get someone to check for you.  
The bottom line: Keep it simple, think it through and choose a solution that meets your needs.  Web design can be a quick and satisfying way to get your business online without spending huge amounts of cash

IoM BIC has a blog

2010 resolution:  share knowledge and information more effectively. 

I’m Kate, incubator manager at the Isle of Man Business and Innovation Centre.

I’ll share information and articles relevant to early stage businesses and entrepreneurs on my blog.  I’ll also write about the Isle of Man Business and Innovation Centre's activities, the Isle of Man as a place to do business and business incubation generally.  Three things close to my heart.

For existing members of the Isle of Man Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) or any start-ups on the Isle of Man, I hope the posts will add to your knowledge bank, inspire you and give you links to some good resources.

Early stage businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs share many common issues.  Mostly, these are solved by sharing knowledge, working together or asking others.  I know this from personal experience (I set up my own business, My PA and have encountered many new and growing businesses at the BIC), through many hours of internet and other research and through contacts and colleagues on and off Island.

I'm happy to share to save others time and boost their business. Guest bloggers are welcome on this site.  To write an article on a particular topic, just get in touch.

Make 2010 the year to jump start and power up your business!