Here's What's Cooking in a Few of the Country's Hottest Design Incubators
The hardest part of getting a successful business off the ground isn’t hatching the next Big Idea, it’s the execution.
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"While starting a company seems the scariest, figuring out how to grow and stay sustainable offers the most challenging decisions," says Matt Anthony, director of the nonprofit Cincinnati Made and program manager of First Batch, an accelerator which helps designers move a product from prototype to production. Launched in 2013, First Batch is one of the many local organizations across the United States helping designers and manufacturers build the networks, relationships, and infrastructure they need to thrive.
"There’s a significant impact in building the large base of the new companies that have been popping up since the recession," Anthony says. At First Batch, designers are offered access to a shared workspace and can expect to learn how to meet and vet fabricators, structure their companies, master social media, and explore sales and distribution channels.
Matthew Clayson, director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, or DC3, an economic-development organization, says forging relationships is key. "Every city has its own hurdles," he says, "but the overarching theme is how to efficiently connect makers and designers to manufacturers. Nationally, we need to take an integrated view that design and manufacturing go hand in hand and are part of a complex supply chain. Neither the creative industries nor the manufacturing industries can operate in a silo." To that end, DC3 is at work on two new platforms, Creative.co—a virtual design-services agency—and Detroit Made—a member-led platform to help promote and connect designers; both are launching in 2015.
SFMade, another local economic-development organization, launched in 2010 with 12 member companies. Now the nonprofit counts 568 certified businesses that produce within San Francisco’s city limits. From a retail map of shops selling locally made goods to a directory of the city’s manufacturers and a listing of available production spaces, SFMade’s initiatives center around disseminating information. "We need to continue to create and strengthen an ecosystem that supports design, development, and manufacturing," says Janet Lees, senior director at SFMade.
Over in Oakland, the nearly two-year-old tech company BriteHub has come to the table with a digital solution that builds upon the work of manufacturing alliances like First Batch, DC3, and SFMade. Dorian Ferlauto, BriteHub’s founder and an industry veteran, saw a common challenge for burgeoning companies: They had demand, but they couldn’t manufacture enough or at prices people would buy. "It’s about connecting designers that have consumer demand with domestic suppliers that can help them move into that new realm," she says. "We’re trying to create efficient tools for people to build relationships, so they can start getting stuff done right away."