Located in Hamilton, New York, the TIA Incubator is home to students and entrepreneurs developing their ideas with support from their local community. We spoke with Mary Galvez, Incubator Director for the Partnership for Community Development, about students who are running successful businesses from the coworking space, and how she’s growing the member community to welcome more entrepreneurs.
Why did you decide to open a coworking space?
The Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship at Colgate program had been using the TIA Incubator space for about six years during the school year and for a summer business accelerator. But it sat empty for a lot of the time, especially during the daytime hours when students were on campus. We had a few local people ask us about using the space, and in coordination with the Partnership for Community Development we opened the space up to coworking.
Tell us about your space. What kinds of amenities does it have? What makes it unique?
Our space is in a former hardware store in the center of the village of Hamilton, New York. We have over 3,000 square feet with two private conference rooms, a phone booth, high speed internet, full printing/scanning capabilities, 24/7 access, a kitchenette, a stage for pitch presentations, and a projector for presentations or remote meetings.
One unique quality is our shared space between Colgate University students and local community members, which makes for a really nice dynamic. TIA and PCD also recently received a $625,000 grant to hire a full-time incubator director and increase the amount of programming and outreach we’re able to do. We’ve been busy the last six months building up this initiative.
What is your favorite thing about operating a coworking space?
My favorite thing has to be the diversity of ventures that are here. We have an interior design company, an engineering consultant, a clothing business, and several other businesses. I also enjoy seeing the interaction between seasoned community business owners and students just starting out.
What’s your favorite story about one of your members?
I have a story about three students who were in the space at the same time. One was on a Zoom meeting interviewing candidates for her marketing firm. The other one was on the phone with a client negotiating a contract. The third one was on a Zoom meeting with a designer for his clothing company. All of them were full-time students at a very prestigious university who also had classes to attend. I just sat there and thought to myself, “What have I been doing with my life?” I felt very unaccomplished sitting with these ‘kids’ who were operating real businesses while also being students! It was actually awe-inspiring and all three are still doing quite well.
What advice would you offer to someone wanting to open a coworking space?
Really plan out how you want your space to operate. You need to have amenities such as programming and good internet to draw people and build your community. Talk to business owners to find out what it is they want and need. I think building community is one of the most important parts of operating a coworking space—probably the most difficult, but definitely the most important. The one thing we’ve discovered from talking to people who have used the space is the opportunity to talk to someone at the next table who might have (or have had) the same problems you’re having. It’s all about making connections, networking, and building community.
Learn more about the TIA Incubator on Facebook.