A business incubator in western Massachusetts is the first tenant in the new Springfield Innovation Center.
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely work.
But now there is a place in western Massachusetts where people with a bright idea they want to turn into a business can leave their kitchen table or university laboratory and work in a professional setting with support and encouragement: the new Valley Venture Mentors Hub.
"It is really important for entrepreneurs to feel community," said Valley Venture Menors CEO Kristen Leutz. " Having the workspace is a chance to come and have colleagues everyday even if it is just you working on your startup."
And, Leutz said the organization that has helped to launch close to 300 businesses in the 10 years since it was founded how has its own offices.
" We were very lucky to get some donated space in Towers Square. It was one big room where we were all together all the time. It was a little difficult beause you might have a quiet mentorship conversation next to a class going on next to staff working in their office. So this is an incredible opportunity for us to really stretch out."
The hub for business startups is the first tenant in the Innovation Center, which is located in a refurbished three-story building on Bridge Street in the heart of Springfield’s downtown business center.
Occupying 10,000-square feet on two floors, the hub includes an auditorium for presentations, a conference room, and co-working space. There is also private office space available for rent.
" We really invite people to come see the space," said Leutz.
One of the start-up companies with offices in the hub is Aclarity which is looking to put a residential water purification device on the market. Company co-founder Julie Bliss Mullen, who came up with the now patented technology while a graduate student at UMass Amherst, has worked with Valley Venture Mentors for about a year.
"It has been phenomenal," said Bliss Mullen. "From the networking to brand help to really everything, they've been phenomenal."
Another tenant in the co-working space is Ompractice,com, which delivers live interactive online yoga and meditation classes. Co-founder and CEO Chris Lucas said at the hub he comes in contact with potential investors and customers.
"The community in Springfield matters to us and we want to be here and known as a company that started in western Massachusetts," said Lucas.
Valley Venture Mentors is the key tenant in the innovation center, which is owned by DevelopSpringfield, a public-private partnership.
Work on the project started in 2016, but was stopped a year later when the contractor said they were not being paid. Construction resumed last summer.
DevelopSpringfield Chairman Nicholas Fyntrilakas said 17,000-square feet of space remains available for lease and scaffolding still surrounds the building as work continues to restore the art deco façade.
" We had no shortage of challenges with this project, but that is what DevelopSpringfield is here for: to take compicated difficult projects that are not easy to get done and get them done. We are definately pleased with how it came out. It looks great and we're very excited," said Fyntrilakas.
The $7 million project was paid for with a combination of state funds, private loans and grants, and historic tax credits.