“Small businesses are vulnerable in their first three years—up to 85 percent fail,” said Gina Bertoletti, assistant at Moore Norman Technology Center’s Business Development Center, located at their South Penn Campus. “Growth is the key to longevity,” and this incubator is perfect for that.
A great idea is a fragile thing. It requires proper attention and care, and above all, the right environment in which to flourish—much like an egg. And, just like an incubator is used to help eggs develop into chicks, the Business Development Center provides the perfect environment for business ideas to develop into companies.
Edward Flick and Chad Williamson are the partners behind one of the businesses currently renting space at the BDC. Their website, izzLo, connects homeowners looking to sell their homes with a realtor offering competitive rates. The homeowner’s personal information is only shared with the realtor with the lowest rates selected, so there is never any spamming or hassle to the homeowner.
After developing their idea, the men knew that they needed to get an office space, but traditional options were cost-prohibitive for this startup.
“We were searching for office space and incubators in Oklahoma,” said Williamson. “Oklahoma has long supported small businesses and incubators. We applied here because it was affordable and close to home.” Flick and Williamson were approved and have been in the incubator for about a year working on their startup—and so much more.
Sharing their skills with an incubator neighbor, Flick and Williamson developed software for another client, underscoring the tight-knit community fostered in the BDC, which is due in no small part to Bertoletti. “Gina has been so helpful to us in gathering resources,” said Williamson.
Room to Grow
When asked about the BDC, Bertoletti’s excitement is palpable. Each business is unique and each business has different needs and strengths; the incubator staff is there to ensure each of them has the tools required to succeed. “We are able to offer resources and support,” said Bertoletti.
“We would definitely recommend it (BDC) to other small businesses,” said Flick. “The staff has been helpful but not intrusive,” allowing Flick and Williamson to work through their business interface and concept while providing advice and knowledge.
“Businesses have to take advice to succeed,” says Bertoletti. “We’ll advise clients of the pros and cons we see and let them move forward.” The staff lets the business make choices, mistakes and successes but will step in if they see a choice might be harmful to themselves or their business.
Secrets to Success
What advice would Flick and Williamson offer to a business applying to become clients of the BDC? “Be prepared to invest a lot of time and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Flick.
“Listen twice as much as you talk,” added Bertoletti. She recalled a client who had a small-scale idea but recently shifted the focus of his company based on the demands of the market. “Ultimately, the market dictates your business, listen to what it’s asking for.”
The businesses currently working out of the incubator include cyber security, cultural resources management, e-textbooks, programmers, biomedical, textiles, human resources and landscape design. There are very few restrictions on what types of businesses can apply to the BDC, and the average business works on a three-year contract.
“Every incubator wants innovation and fast-growing businesses—but that’s limiting,” said Bertoletti. “Brand new ideas and crazy concepts are exciting.” The incubator attracts subject matter experts, but not necessarily business experts.
“A BDC client might work with MNTC’s Graphic Design class to develop a logo, or instructors might ask business people to come into classes,” says Bertoletti. This interaction helps the small businesses and the students in a real-world, real-time way, which is the ultimate goal for success.