The Ennovation Center, an Independence incubator program for entrepreneurs, opened in 2010 and has been serving small business owners ever since. The Ennovation Center is located in what was previously the Independence Regional Medical Center, allowing it the unique capability of housing a wet-lab and five fully equipped kitchens in addition to group work spaces, conference rooms and private offices. The Ennovation Center focuses on three business areas: bio-tech, culinary, and business & technology.
Since 2013, Lee Langerock, Executive Director, has headed the Ennovation Center. Langerock said what really drove her to the Ennovation Center was, “the opportunity to work on a micro level to support emerging companies and to help introduce entrepreneurship to the community.”
The bio-tech and business & technology companies benefit most from the wet-lab. The wet-lab has a multitude of diverse resources for the equipment needs of biotech entrepreneurs, including: incubator ovens, an Autoclave and a centralized deionized water system. “We have biological incubators inside our incubator,” said Xander Winkel, Program & Design Coordinator, speaking about the unique equipment that the Ennovation Center has to offer biotech startups. There is also a Subzero freezer available, which can replicate extreme temperatures. “Biotech companies use it for product stability,” said Winkel. The freezer is also used by manufacturers to test products, such as electronics, in extreme temperatures.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the Ennovation Center is its ability to accommodate food innovators. The program currently has 50 entrepreneurial clients, including 39 food based entrepreneurs. In the majority of states, health departments require that all food products for sale be prepared in an approved commercial kitchen.
Some of the more valuable resources available in the kitchen, according to Langerock, are the people themselves. “[The entrepreneurs] really know their stuff and are willing to share their knowledge,” said Langerock. “The knowledge and experience that you can gain by being able to work and communicate with each other is very valuable,” continued Langerock. “Here, we work to develop networks, friendships and supportive services to give them the very best chance of success.”
The best advice Winkel offers for entrepreneurs that want to get into the food business is to, “get market feedback, not just feedback from friends and family. Ask yourself, ‘is this food product meeting a desire in the market place?’” The best way to test your food product is to start small, Winkel continued. “Get out there with your minimal viable product or a limited product line. Get as much data and constructive feedback as you can get.”
The ability to work closely with other entrepreneurs can help program participants overcome the employee mentality. “The transition from employee to being a CEO is a very different mentality,” said Winkel, “so having the resources and different brains to help you figure out how to scale up and take the next steps in your business are helpful.”
For more information on the incubator program visit the Ennovation Center.