One of those resources is the Business Incubator. Located in Stubbs Hall on the ULM campus, the incubator offers office space, access to office equipment and technology, flexible leases, and room for expansion.
With the services provided by the incubator, newly established businesses can thrive in a controlled environment, guided by mentors and experts in the business field.
The incubator is led by Executive Director, Susan Duggins, who has been at ULM for over a decade. Duggins, a ULM graduate and Monroe native, has a background in both business and higher education. Duggins also worked in financial services and real estate.
The center also provides regional development opportunities for leaders of community organizations and businesses, including training programs such as budgeting, leadership, planning, financial literacy, and other business-related topics.
Duggins said, “Incubators contribute to the local and regional economy by creating jobs, enhancing the entrepreneurial climate, accelerating the growth of young companies, and reducing the risk of small business failure.”
Duggins’ experience is helping guide incubator tenants in the right direction.
“The incubator has helped me flourish by providing a wonderful location with great facilities and administrative assistance,” said Alberta Brown Green, owner of ABG Counseling and Career Consulting LLC.
“Susan Duggins provides my business and all other incubator tenants a plethora of resources and services designed to support and sustain our businesses.”
Now at full capacity, the incubator at ULM—which held its grand opening in May 2013— has received over $100,000 in funding since 2011 from the Louisiana Business Incubation Association and Louisiana Economic Development.
Reginald Fontana II of Accelerated Business Exchange said, “The ULM Incubator has been a tremendous catalyst in helping develop the relationships with other business owners.”
Through Accelerated Business Exchange, Fontana has developed a network of exchanges for businesses to trade goods and services from state to state, with intricate record keeping services.
Current tenants are thriving in the environment and are using the skills learned to propel their businesses forward.
Business Incubator tenant Nielle Avery is the owner of Avercom— an inbound/outbound call center which provides customer service, technical support and live chat for telecom, mobile devices, financial services, travel & hospitality, cruise lines, roadside assistance associations, tax software, retail and more.
Avery said her experience with the incubator has helped her realized that making connections is vital to her business success.
“Partner with other business owners that are just as passionate as you are,” she said. “Trust them with your vision and delegate. Projects move faster when you have a team… and once you create your winning team, use them for everything.”
Andrea Davis, an incubator tenant who owns production company Cypress Entertainment Group, took away a few intangible lessons.
“[The incubator] provided a psychological and financial buffer to give our business the opportunity to grow,” she said. … “There’s always an outlet when help or advice is needed.”
The incubator tenants are spreading the word about the opportunities and services that the facility provides.
Jennifer Zimmerman—owner of Delta Benefit Consulting, specializing in health, life, Medicare, and employee benefits— said “The Incubator has provided excellent office space, a conference room, a work room, collaborative efforts among tenants, all under the watchful and ever helpful and resourceful guidance of Susan Duggins."
"It’s like having a mini team of backup for any obstacles or ‘think-tanking’ you would want to have. I have really enjoyed the incubator and brag on it at every opportunity!"
Currently, the center is at full capacity, housing 11 tenants.
To learn more about the incubator, visit ulm.edu/nlbcdc/content/business-incubator