The next era of the Greater Williamsburg Business Incubator, now known as Launchpad, lifted off last night with the grand opening of a new space for entrepreneurs to learn, network and develop their innovations.
The incubator’s new “pad,” a 4,800-square-foot space at 4345 New Town Ave., features 12 business offices, glass-enclosed conference rooms and flexible open space for classes or networking events.
Tim Ryan, the director of Launchpad, said acquiring the floor above Paul’s Deli in New Town was “serendipitous.”
“It’s the place many start-ups would want to be but couldn’t be able to afford on their own,” Ryan said.
The incubator started in 2007 in James City County and expanded to serve aspiring and seasoned business owners throughout the Historic Triangle in 2012.
Last year the incubator, at that time known as the Triangle Business Innovation Center, was looking to relocate to the City of Williamsburg, but after the lease fell through in November, the incubator sought proposals from property owners willing to house the operation.
Ryan, who became director nine months ago, said the New Town space came in “right on budget” and Launchpad signed the lease in May.
“We knew what we needed to do. If we were going to take the time to do this, we needed to do it right, and that’s what we did,” Ryan said. “We’re building a brand.”
The name Launchpad was adopted in August to help communicate how the incubator helps businesses get off the ground, Ryan said.
“We’re ‘launch’ because that’s what we’re doing and we moved into this space and it’s a pad,” Ryan said. “It just seems to fit, so we ran with it.”
Russell Seymour, director of economic development for James City County, said New Town is an ideal location for aspiring small business owners.
“I can’t think of a better place to start a business than here in James City County and here in New Town,” Seymour said. “You have access to so many resources here in New Town, so it’s great for us.”
John Sullivan, co-owner of American Eagle Flag & Flagpole, LLC, graduated from the incubator three years ago and said the New Town location will be more beneficial to entrepreneurs than the former center on Palmer Lane.
“I think it’s like a rebirth,” Sullivan said. “This is much more professional out here. It’s in a hub of business.”
While most members of the incubator have entirely new businesses, Sullivan’s enterprise was already established in New Jersey. Sullivan said the incubator offered the “soft landing” he needed when relocating to Williamsburg.
“The contacts for the different services you need and places to go was at a different level than using the phone book,” he said.
Michele DeWitt, economic development director for the City of Williamsburg, said entrepreneurs like Sullivan frequently express an interest in starting a business in the Williamsburg area.
“It seems to be the American dream to own and run your own business,” DeWitt said. “[Launchpad] is an added resource to help those people.”
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