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Detroit's newest space for growing business ideas

The rise of the business incubator, an organization that provides guidance and resources to startups, is a well-known trend in the world of entrepreneurship. In September, a small business incubator called Practice Space opened its doors in what was formerly an auto-repair shop on Perry just off 14th St. in North Corktown. And its incubation model might be the first of its kind.

Three businesses will be chosen for Practice Space's upcoming four-month term beginning on May 14. Model D will be given firsthand access to the development of these businesses and will relate their experiences through monthly write-ups.

Following the businesses enrolled in Practice Space's incubator will be interesting because of the program's unique model. Practice Space provides Detroit-based businesses in its incubation program with wide-ranging, interdisciplinary counsel from a group of experts, as well as access to space in the Perry Street facility. To be admitted into the program, a business must have a brick & mortar component, a social relevance to Detroit, and be at a particular point in its development. The program costs admitted businesses $3,000 per term. 

One of Detroit's overlooked assets is its underutilized property. Many Detroit properties, such as Practice Space's own building, are structurally sound, aesthetically distinct, and capable of being re-appropriated for uses for which they may not have been originally intended. Having a placed-based requirement means that businesses in Practice Space's program tend towards the hyper-local.

Practice Space describes the period in which they specialize as the "concept phase" -- a pivotal developmental point where mistakes can cost a great deal down the road. Steps taken during this stage include perfecting a business plan, designing floor plans, projecting finances, developing an overall design and aesthetic for promotional materials, and more. 

These wide-ranging, complex fields often overwhelm a fledgling business, especially if the owner has never attempted such a venture before. That is why businesses are given access to a team of five advisors with expertise in architecture, law, real-estate, design, and community engagement. These advisors work from Practice Space about six to eight hours per month and make themselves available to the businesses through email.

In addition, Practice Space runs a residency program, which offers office-space to young professionals seeking to hone their skills by working part-time for one of the businesses in the incubation program. Practice Space's management expects to have 12-15 residents for the upcoming term. Residents pay $2,500 for their first term and discounted rates thereafter.

As stated on Practice Space's website, "The program gives you the resources to fully explore the many aspects of your project, while clarifying a path forward." Owners will leave the program with a "concept book," or a distilled vision of the business plan, which can be presented to investors as proof of their thoughtful approach to their business. 

This forthcoming term will be Practice Space's third. Their first term in September 2013 had one business (The North End Storehouse), their second term had two (Off World, Project 1417), and they hope to have three for the May-Aug. term.

Practice Space has been honing their model and growing in membership each term. This upcoming one should be their most comprehensive yet. We look forward to showcasing the development of the Detroit businesses enrolled and digging deeper into this new business incubation model.

Photos courtesy of Practice Space.

Aaron Mondry is a Detroit-based freelance writer.

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