EDINBORO, Pa. – After nearly a decade and more than a half million dollars in the making, StARTup Incubator – a local nonprofit organization that extends the educational mission of Edinboro University to regional economic development – debuts Friday with a Grand Opening celebration.
The StARTup Incubator’s ribbon-cutting led by State Senator Jane Earll will precede an Open House showcasing the work of the nonprofit’s artistic and creative clients.
According to Edinboro University and StARTup officials, the incubator links the school’s renowned strength in the arts and technology to the region’s strength in manufacturing, combining all three components. Thus, StARTup helps entrepreneurs as well as early-stage art-based and traditional manufacturing companies in their growth and development by providing a wide range of assistance, such as affordable space, shared support and business development services.
Under this unique concept, the aim is to foster businesses that will create not only wealth and jobs, but also grow and diversify the cultural and economic base of Northwest Pennsylvania.
Incubators in general are non-profit organizations that nurture the development of entrepreneurial companies, helping them to survive and grow during their start-up period. The goal of business incubators is to produce successful companies that will leave the program financially viable and operationally freestanding.
Incubators offer their clients business support services and resources tailored to their needs. But incubators are not just about cheap office or studio space or shared administrative resources. The heart of the program is the service it provides its clients – networking with other entrepreneurs and with experienced leaders; help with strategic business and marketing plans; access to capital; and development of the skills needed to make a business successful.
Friday’s event, starting at 5 p.m. at 123 plum Street (Route 6N), Edinboro, will feature artist demonstrations such as weaving and photography, followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. led by Senator Earll. Valerie Mayen, fashion designer, owner of the Yellow Cake label, and previous contestant on Season 8 of “Project Runway,” will deliver an Artist Talk following the ceremony. Mayen, of Cleveland, placed 7th in the television series and went on to create her own fashion label.
“The StARTup Incubator board of directors is pleased we are finally opening,” said Donna Douglass, Vice President and Acting Executive Director. “The incubator presents another opportunity for our region to alleviate brain drain. For example, Edinboro University animation graduates now have access to all the equipment and software they need to freelance without having to make large personal investments and without having to move to the West Coast or Manhattan for gainful employment.”
Douglass, a graduate of Edinboro and Penn State Universities with undergraduate and graduate art and education degrees, has vast experience in the region’s art, education, business and philanthropic communities.
She said the incubator, operating in close collaboration with Edinboro University’s large and nationally-respected Art Department, will offer a variety of services to its clients, including studio and manufacturing space, marketing support and networking opportunities.
Dr. Terry Smith, Dean of Edinboro’s College of Arts and Sciences, said StARTup Incubator received support from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in the form of a $183,000 Planning and Feasibility for Business Infrastructure grant to create an “Art-based Manufacturing Incubator.” An Entrepreneurial Leadership Center grant of $208,000 was awarded a year later. The incubator also received grants from the Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, the Erie County Keystone Innovation Zone, the Erie Community Foundation, and, with the support of Senator Earll, from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Several private individuals also made financial contributions.
Dr. Smith said the largest grant, $332,500, came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
During Friday’s Open House, light refreshments and live music from Susan Be Anthony and Seth Brewster will finish off the evening of celebration.