Greg Gillespie just started his own business in Teutopolis.
So did Kelly Hemrich in Newton.
Gillespie and Hemrich are among a number of entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of a trend in rural America — business incubators. They are part of the Effingham Regional Incubator network.
In a business incubator, aspiring businesspeople can take advantage of low-rent office space for up to two years. By then, the business should be established enough to get its own space.
Norma Lansing of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce said the incubator concept reduces risk for the new business.
“Sometimes we hear from people who want to start a business, but doesn’t know how,” Lansing said.
Incubators may also provide assistance with networking, financing options and other business basics.
The concept of business incubation is not a new one.
Hardware store manager Joseph Mancuso began the Batavia Industrial Center in 1959 after his family bought the vacant Massey-Ferguson plant in his upstate New York hometown. Instead of finding a single tenant to occupy the 850,000 square foot building, the Mancusos divided the building and rented space to tenants that included a winery, charitable organization and a chicken company – hence the term “incubator.”
BIC, as the Batavia center is commonly known, filled up that space within five years and created thousands of jobs for what had been an economically depressed area. Despite that success, the concept took decades to catch on.
By 1980, there were only 12 business incubators in the United States — all in the Northeast, which had endured a spate of large job loss due to the closure of major industries. But after the U.S. Small Business Administration got on board by actively promoting incubator development, that number grew to 70 by 1987.
By 2000, there were 3,200 business incubators worldwide, one-third in North America. By 2013, that number had nearly tripled to 9,000, including 1,400 in North America.
Lansing said it was about this time when Effingham County business leaders began discussing a need for new business development.
“We started talking about incubation in late 2012,” she said. “Altamont had an available building and EJ Water was willing to host an incubator in their new headquarters.”
The Effingham incubator was located in what older residents may remember as the CIPS building, now corporate headquarters for Dieterich Bank, on North Third Street.
Most recently, an incubator was established in Teutopolis in a nondescript building between the village hall and Ping’s Tavern. That’s where Greg Gillespie has established his new business — Davurse.
Gillespie, a 2005 Teutopolis High School graduate, worked for several years as an engineer in the utility and manufacturing fields before moving into the Teutopolis incubator to start Davurse.
Billing Davurse as a company that provides “data solutions and services,” Gillespie said he handles both manufacturing analytics and business intelligence systems. In the former, Gillespie gathers data from a manufacturing operation and organizes that data so that manufacturers can see what they need to improve open.
In his business intelligence sector, Gillespie combines data from multiple systems into one system.
“Then I can create customizable reports as well as dashboards (electronic snapshots of key performers),” he said.
Gillespie said he has always wanted to own his own business.
“I’ve always heard to do it while I’m young,” he said. “I didn’t want to be 35 and wish I had done it sooner.”
Gillespie, just shy of age 30, is unmarried with no children.
“I knew I was getting older, so I figured I better pull the trigger,” he said.
Gillespie has been in his rented space since April 1. The Village of Teutopolis owns the building, and Village President Greg Hess said it’s a good move for the village.
“The board members fixed up a room in the police garage,” Hess said. “It’s a place for young entrepreneurs to get a head start.”
Gillespie said he uses the space to host a peer group of young businessmen one evening a week.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s helpful being able to bounce ideas off people.”
In Newton, Mary Kay sales director Kelly Hemrich needed a place away from her farm home near Hidalgo.
“I needed a more convenient place to meet my team,” Hemrich said. “I live out in the country, so I would have to rent a meeting room at a hotel.”
Hemrich’s operation is now headquartered in the back of the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce building on the Newton square.
“It’s provided a place for me to train my team and meet my customers,” she said. “It also takes my business out of my house, so when I am at work, I am at work.”
The incubator enables Hemrich to pay low rent, have a free wi-fi connection and access to the chamber office.
“They also have high-traffic advertising space that I get a discount on,” she added.
Hemrich said she is pleased with her decision to relocate into the incubator.
“I’ve held an open house, where several of my team members have come in to look at new products,” she said.
University of Illinois Extension educator Ken Larimore said the regional incubation network is a trend-setter.
“We’re a real leader in our population area,” he said.
“In Jasper County, it’s been a real community project. The chamber took the lead, but there’s also been help from the city.”
Bill Grimes can be reached at email@example.com or 217-347-7151, x132.