Buzz on the NorthShore: The rising pitch of the INCubator

By Holly Ashley

Kathryn Foster Menchetti can hear it even before she steps inside the INCubator each morning: the subtle buzzing of entrepreneurial energy. The sound amplifies as she makes her way through the doors of the NorthShore building into the 127,000 square-foot maze of hallways and doors and Chattanooga startups building their businesses. Menchetti’s daily routine dances to this sound, and has for her 10 years of guiding INCubator entrepreneurs along the ubiquitously rough path of the startup.

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce manages the INCubator at the Hamilton County Business Development Center (BDC), which has graduated more than 530 startups since its founding in 1988.  

“I like to say we’ve been supporting startups before startups were cool,” says Menchetti, the Chamber’s Director of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “Our businesses get stuff done – and with little fanfare.”

Home to more than 50 Chattanooga startups as well as the Chattanooga Technology Council (CHATech) and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC), the INCubator provides unparalleled training and support to entrepreneurs both within and beyond the INCubator’s 3-year program.

“We offer startups what they need most – a great space to scale from idea to profit,” Menchetti says.

Want to join the action? Pitch your startup to Menchetti at 423.752.4301. Let’s build your business.

Why the INCubator?

“There is an energy here you don’t find anywhere else - a high level of excitement and an atmosphere created when a lot of folks in one space are trying to make something out of nothing. It’s so helpful when you can bounce ideas off each other. Even if you’re from different backgrounds and the issues aren’t the same, it’s still interesting getting another entrepreneur’s perspective. Plus - our IT, HR and bookkeeping services are all provided by other INCubator clients, and the seminars from the TSBDC are incredible. You can’t beat the location. We’ll definitely have NorthShore withdrawals after we graduate the program.”  - Richard Carmack, RMJ Tactical

"The Business Development Center is one of the most prominent symbols we have in Chattanooga that the entrepreneurial landscape is thriving. The only thing moving faster than our internet is the speed at which people come together to help small businesses succeed. One of the many things I loved about working at the BDC when I worked at Variable (a funded startup that makes mobile app and sensors for smart devices for color matching) is the North Chattanooga neighborhood. Everything from great restaurants to stores to gyms and more − it's all right there in walking distance."  - Alex Lavidge, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, CO.LAB, formerly of Variable

“The BDC has provided me with ongoing support from day one. They host numerous training programs, most of which are free. As a client you are surrounded by a community of entrepreneurs. The BDC helps to foster family-like relationships that share bright ideas and best practices. Finally, they help transition us to a new location when our time is done.” - Joe Bozich, Outdoor Lighting Perspective

“I joined the INCubator in early 2013, shortly after launching my own company, HR Business Solutions. Knowing I had a permanent location and stable rent for three years gave me freedom to spend my energies on business growth, rather than having ‘what- ifs’ to be concerned about. We’re all working toward the same goals of providing new products and services to the community, so we’re loyal in supporting each other as much as possible. The can-do spirit is a nice boost when we cross paths. Susan Packard wrote about how getting into the ‘boys’ club’ as an executive is difficult because deals get made in the men’s room. Well, here at the INCubator, deals have been known to happen in the ladies’ room.” - Lynn Talbot, HR Business Solutions

“Access to affordable office space at the Business Development Center helped me make the decision to launch my company. Having never ventured into the entrepreneurial space before, I was delighted with the affordability of the space and the access to resources. The NorthShore cultural and business vibe was my only reward for long days and uncertainty at the beginning, but being there energized me and made me feel hopeful about the future. At the very least, I was having a good time and loved the space I was in. This is crucial in maintaining wellness and perseverance in the early days of any launch, but particularly crucial, I think, to a newbie.”  - Debi Crabtree, Village Virtual

“Kathryn Menchetti brings in wonderful speakers for the monthly Lunch and Learn series. If you're an INCubator client, you can get a free lunch (obviously a great perk for an entrepreneur) and free advice from experts. One of my favorites was Richard Becherer, a business and entrepreneur professor at UTC who has owned several businesses. He told us to set a price for our product and/or service and stick to it, even when potential customers try to talk you down. He said if the price point is right and you treat your customers right, then you will have plenty of customers. You don't need the few who will try to wrangle price concessions. That stuck with me and is something I've shared with other small business owners who have asked me for advice.” - Ann Dickerson, Tennessee Moonshine Cakes

“Our goal is to help seniors feel more connected though technology. Kathryn and the BDC have provided the home and the support we needed as a startup, enabling us to focus on what matters most:  our customers. I do not believe that the energy, resources and opportunity that have come together at the BDC can be found anywhere else in our community. If you are an entrepreneur, THIS is where you want to be.” -  Phil Sieg, SeniorTech LLC/www.snapfon.com

What’s Next on the NorthShore: Coffee. Joe. Java. Jitter juice. Call it what you like, but it’s basically fuel for the average entrepreneur. And starting in February, it will be on tap at the INCubator’s Collision Café. Local caterer and INCubator client Dipped Fresh undertakes this venture and will also offer their signature sandwiches and other tasty morsels for startup clients and visitors. No more jonesing, ladies and gentlemen. You’re welcome.

Innovation District Buzz Makes National News

Ken Hays, President & CEO of The Enterprise Center, says Chattanooga has built an unbelievable competitive advantage for a mid-sized city.

“Many new members of our workforce want to be in a highly urbanized, highly caffeinated area with places to interact and socialize away from work. Chattanooga’s been working toward this for 30 years. What we’re seeing now is a high growth of start-ups, built on the foundation of many years of work,” Hays says from his office in the renovated Edney Innovation Center in the heart of the city’s Innovation District, anchored by Co.Lab, the Society of Work and The Enterprise Center.

From his fifth floor office, one block from three downtown parks soon to undergo upgrades, renovation in keeping with smart city urban design planning, Hays spoke about the importance of national thought leaders taking note of Chattanooga.

“In a three-week time period, the Pew Research Center,  the Lincoln Land Institute and former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke with the Brookings Institute  wrote about Chattanooga. These are incredible third-party validations that we’re moving in the right direction in terms of focusing on the innovation economy,” Hays says. 

“Leading research shows that if a city is not focused on the innovation economy then it’s going to be left behind,” he predicted. Chattanooga is positioned for continued growth.

“By the end of February, we’ll have approximately 32,000 square feet of space filled with innovation activities,” he says of the Edney. These include everything from twice-a-week poetry to a visit from national AARP representatives looking into technology innovations that might benefit its 37 million members.

“The Brookings Institute is recognized as one of the best think tanks for predictors of urban policy. What they have placed a high value on in innovation districts is placemaking. The workforce of today wants to be in great places. If you look at what we’ve done in our city in the last 30 years, it’s made it a great place to visit. And a great place to come live and work.” 

2016 INCubator Clients

American Exchange
Anna Victoria
Beyond Technique
Branch Technology
Caring Senior Service
Chattanooga Technology Council*
Citadel Logistics
Code Journeymen
CODE SCIENCE
CO.LAB**
Coop Guitars
Dipped Fresh
ElderNav
EES Consulting Chattanooga
Escadrille
Feetz
Geodatix
Grace Home Primary Care
HAPI International
HR Business Solutions
IDEIS design
iteq telematics
JELKS LAW FIRM
The Law Office of Autumn Witt Boyd
Marketing Chattanooga
Michel & Ward
Moccasin Bend Bicycle Company
NEKTUR MARKETING
OUTDOOR LIGHTING PERSPECTIVES
parallel35 Global Exchange
Phoenix Investigative Services
PROMUS Engineering
PROTECHT Consulting
Q36 Studios
rapid RMS
River City Workshops
RMJ Tactical
PRIMERICA
snapfōn
skye strategies
SUITELAUNCH
Te
Temperate
Tennessee Moonshine Cakes
TSBDC*
The American Insurance Group
The HR Shop
VARIABLE, Inc.
Village Virtual
wecounsel
William D. Curtis
Zipflip

*Anchor tenant
**Satellite office

-Dec. 15, 2015