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4 Places With Niche Startup Incubators

You may know about tech startups and Silicon Valley's software scene, but these cities have specialized incubators that provide mentorship, workspace and in some cases, capital for entrepreneurs.

By Brett Smith on May 26, 2017

Catalyst in Chicago, IL
Jeff Adkins

Typically manifested in a physical space, business incubators are organizations dedicated to nurturing fledgling startup enterprises in the hopes that they can go on to become successful, profitable companies.

Incubators have been associated mostly with tech startups, but the model has been adopted by other industries and disciplines. Now, incubators around the Midwest – from Telluride to Cleveland – are supporting everything from consumer goods to the arts.

In a world that seems increasingly dominated by massive multinational conglomerates, these incubators give people with passion and ideas a chance to succeed.

Catalyze (Chicago)

Founded in 2014, Catalyze is an incubator carrying Chicago’s proud manufacturing history into the 21st century. The engineering incubator supplies its members with  tools, mentorship opportunities, manufacturing guidance and connections to investors. With this help, members can design their products, create prototypes, launch a product and scale up their business.

Catalyze also aims to create a sense of camaraderie among its members through its various coworking spaces and community events.

Food Enterprise and Economic Development (FEED) Kitchens (Madison, Wisc.)

FEED is an incubator that supports food startups, offers a processing facility for small farmers and supplies processing services to guide public schools’ attempts to increase students’ nutrition. The goal is to boost the availability of regional, healthy and affordable food products and food-related jobs.

The incubator has five commercial kitchen spaces for hourly rental, on-site business development classes and financing assistance. Most entrepreneurs are encouraged to graduate from FEED into either a second-stage incubator or their own facility. Some FEED members are long-term renters operating part-time, or nano-businesses.

FEED has a diverse range of members, with many being low-to-moderate income individuals looking to either complement their incomes, become financially self-sufficient or to expand an already-existing small food business. A lot of the early community interest has been among immigrant women who wish to sell traditional foods. Other members are looking to explore the development of an explicit food product to see if it can become a new food business.

Cleveland Workspace (Cleveland)

With five studios, two public galleries and one community room, the Cleveland Workspace is an incubator with an emphasis on the visual arts. The incubator offers studios for rent, in much the same way that business incubators have coworking space available. Member artists have the chance to show off their work first Friday of every month.

Telluride Venture Accelerator (Telluride, Colo.)

Colorado is such a scenic, beautiful state – it may come as no surprise that the Telluride Venture Accelerator specializes in supporting outdoor-oriented startups. Through the backing of the nonprofit organization Telluride Foundation, the accelerator is about to offer select businesses $30,000 in capital and six months of mentoring. The incubator welcomes companies dealing in outdoor gear, organic food, healthy living, energy and education.

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