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Nesting Instinct

Businesses of a feather thrive together.

It can be a cold, harsh world out there--especially if you're just starting out in business. Luckily, business incubators can provide you with shelter from the storms of unfamiliarity.

Assistance programs established to help get your business off the ground, incubators nurture your company during its infancy--when it's most vulnerable to the perils of the start-up process. In addition to management advice, access to financing, technical and business support, and other services, incubators offer affordable rental rates for work space.

Incubators boast impressive success ratios: According to a recent study by the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), an estimated 87 percent of companies that graduated from incubators since the 1970s are still in business. In addition, these companies report an average sales increase of more than 400 percent from the time they enter the incubators until they leave.

"Business incubation goes a long way toward taking the fear and loneliness out of your business," says Dinah Adkins, the NBIA's executive director. "[It] provides invaluable services to fledgling companies to ensure their success."

A small number of "niche incubators" also exist, which cater to new companies in specific industries, such as software or arts and crafts, as well as businesses run by women and minorities.

Because of its popularity, incubator tenancy is not offered to just any new business seeking assistance; most incubators have a stringent application process and even require prospective tenants to present a formal business plan. But once accepted, many businesses aren't quick to leave: On average, companies stay in incubators two to three years.

For a listing of incubators in your state, e-mail or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to National Business Incubation Association, 20 E. Circle Dr., #190, Athens, OH 45701.

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This article was originally published in the March 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Nesting Instinct.

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