Beyond the Pitch
Cultivate: A Grove City Haven for Growth-Minded Entrepreneurs
There’s something special about entrepreneurial destinations located in buildings rich with history. Cultivate, is one of those—a small business incubator and co-working space in the Old Grove City Hardware Store building in the Grove City Historic Town Center.
Cultivate may be in a 100-year-old building with soaring ceilings, loft offices, and exposed brick, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about this incubator’s passionate support for innovation and entrepreneurs.
Supporting Entrepreneurs Close to Where They Are
Founder and executive director of Cultivate, Matt Yerkes, is the force behind this non-profit’s success. Cultivate casts a wide net; the target profile is high growth companies, but anyone who signs up for an event is welcome. It’s a place that entrepreneurs want to be.
“It behooves people who are looking for the kind of resources that we have to have those close to where they live, and often, where their home offices are,” Yerkes said. “We are in the heart of Grove City, yet just 10 minutes from downtown.”
Cultivate offers collaborative workspace, events and workshops, and connections to experts, advisors, and investors—all to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their companies.
“It’s huge to have an actual business address, and a place to operate your business from that is professional and not out of your basement—which is where I started my first business from,” said Yerkes. “Also, from the beginning, we’ve built a culture of support. We want the entrepreneurs who work in our building to be collaborative and develop professional relationships with each other.”
That’s part of the reason for the on-site Garden Bar Cafe, a great place for entrepreneurs to have a cup of coffee or lunch with customers or business partners. “Food is an important way to bring people together,” Yerkes said. “Food fosters relationships.”
In that vein, Cultivate’s Lunch and Learn series features regionally renowned speakers, networking events, and exclusive member gatherings. The October topic is “Five Legal Pitfalls Early Stage Companies Should Avoid” presented by two attorneys from Porter Wright.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” Yerkes said. “For me, the most exciting and motivating thing is to be part of starting a business from scratch—and it’s even better if it’s a type of business that didn’t exist before. The building we are in sat empty for ten years. Now, we’ve established Cultivate—something from nothing. We’ve created connections that were not there before. We’ve had very strong support and advice from other groups that are doing things like us.”
Innovate New Albany, the DEC in Dublin, and Rev1 Ventures have all lent advice and support.
It’s been just a little more than a year since Cultivate opened its doors. In that short time, the organization’s impact, with strong business, community, and government support, has been powerful.
- 22 businesses moved to Cultivate (>75% capacity)
- 35 companies are members of Cultivate
- 112 jobs either created or relocated to Grove City
- 536 entrepreneurs educated at Cultivate’s Lunch & Learns with nearly 1,000 total event attendees
“Grove City is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state and #2 in Central Ohio,” said Kristy Campbell, Rev1 chief operating officer. “This growth is boosting not just the business and housing economy, but the startup economy as well. At the center of all this action, Cultivate is a haven for growth-minded entrepreneurs to locate their businesses, connect with other entrepreneurs, and engage in services to help them succeed.”
Yerkes goal for Cultivate’s first year was to establish the incubator’s brand and reputation, gain tenants, create programming that attracted more entrepreneurs, and build up sponsorship as part of a path to ongoing sustainability. He says it was a bit of a learning curve to go from an entrepreneur whose experience was in business to figuring out how to operate a successful non-profit.
“We’ve been successful at it,” he said. “It has been fairly easy to attract people and organizations who are excited and want to be part of what we are doing and want to help us out.”
Yerkes is committed to keeping the trajectory moving and is building a roadmap for Cultivate continue to grow into something bigger than it already is—a strong business-launching machine. He is working to diversify sponsorship from entities whose interests are aligned with Cultivate’s mission to help entrepreneurs.
“We are nearly at capacity and need to find creative ways to find more space for more entrepreneurs,” he said. “We want people to come in the door. We want to help them live in reality. Ideas sound cool, but it’s a lot of hard work and brain power—long days and weekends—to build a company. We want to bring a little more savvy to help people validate their market and assess their capacity to follow through before they start.”
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