Hot small business trends you should know about: Co-working offices and business accelerators

The growth in resources across the country to help small businesses, especially in their early stages, is phenomenal. Innovative new responses to help small business owners meet the challenge of getting off the ground are everywhere. Here are two trends to keep an eye on:

• Business accelerators: This concept began to take off five or six years ago and has now really started to gain momentum all across the country. A business accelerator is essentially a boot camp for would-be entrepreneurs. Through an intensive yet relatively short course of study, people learn how to turn their ideas into prototypes or market-ready products in a matter of months instead of years. Though mostly focused on the high-tech arena, they aren’t limited to that. This Business Week article explains the concept in depth.

One business accelerator I’m familiar with is Project Skyway, which bills itself as Minneapolis’s first tech accelerator program. Like many such programs, Project Skyway was started by a successful entrepreneur, Cem Erdem, founder, president and CEO of Augusoft, Inc., a software company that provides web-hosted lifelong learning systems for the educational community. The project is Cem’s effort at social entrepreneurship, designed to help spur business growth in his community. Plans call for the concept to be taken to other cities as well.

• Co-working offices: This concept also began to take off in the middle of the last decade, starting with the first co-working space in San Francisco. In co-working spaces people share office space yet work independently. This is an ideal solution for solopreneurs who don’t enjoy the isolation that comes with working alone at home.

Such space is inexpensive because the rental cost is being shared, so people who might not be able to afford an out-of-home office, especially when they’re just getting started, can afford this option. Also, if you have an employee who works remotely from your main office, you might want to look for co-working spaces where that person is located. It could help cut your costs and result in a happier, less isolated employee.

A lot of synergy can come from such space-sharing arrangements. Here’s an article I wrote on the topic for MassLive.com with more information.

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