7 Great Places to Launch Your Business

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Spectacular locations for start ups across northeast Wisconsin

Story by Sean Fitzgerald, New North B2B publisher

It’s no secret that getting a business off the ground can be an expensive, time-consuming and all-encompassing process.

Many pursue the inexpensive route of working from a home office – which works out for some – while others find themselves still in their pajamas unshaven at noontime. Presenting a professional image is as much a function of the space one works from as it is their business card, brochures or web site.

If you’re a business that provides a service – or even a light manufacturer or food caterer – getting set up in the right location doesn’t have to be among the plethora of other start-up headaches most all entrepreneurs suffer.

Incubators, co-working centers and office suites with shared services help make the task of getting a business off the ground much more about the business itself, rather than worrying about facilities, office furniture, IT infrastructure and having a presentable board room to meet clients.

Northeast Wisconsin has its share of such physical locations for entrepreneurs, and we’ve put together a list of those most appropriate for start ups in B2B’s 7 Great Places to Launch Your Business showcase.

Advance Business & Manufacturing Center Green Bay

One of the longer-running business accelerators in the region, this start-up hotbed also houses local offices for all the intangible assistance a new entrepreneur could want.

Economic development officials, SCORE counselors, Small Business Development Center staff and financing consultants are right down the hallway and available at no cost for advice on all aspects of business management, according to Elizabeth Slade, program manager for the incubator center.

The facility itself features 44 offices, each with approximately 160 square feet of space, office furniture and a shared receptionist in the lobby, all for between $250 to $300 per month. Conveniently located at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s main campus just minutes off of U.S. Highway 41 in Green Bay, tenants have access to NWTC’s Wi-Fi network at no additional cost.

Tenants may also use many of the standard amenities offered at the space, including a conference room, video-conferencing equipment, shared printer and other office equipment, kitchenette and lounge.

Advance Business Center offers virtual memberships as well, for those small businesses who simply need a place to pop into on occasion as opposed to requiring dedicated, permanent office space. For two different options ranging from $50 to $95 per month, entrepreneurs can come in for the day with their laptop, have access to most of the same amenities as regular tenants, and then pack up with everything they brought when leaving at the end of the day, Slade said.

Recent tenants use the center for a wide variety of business needs, such as transitioning from a home office to a commercial office, or an established company setting up a satellite office.

A unique offering at the Advance Business Center are the five manufacturing bays, which allow small industrial start ups to begin production for $999 a month, a fee which includes 1,000 square feet of industrial space, utilities (including 120-volt and 3-phase 440-volt electricity), reinforced concrete foundations and air compression capabilities. Two of the bays with exterior access have overhead doors, while the other three can access a common area loading dock and overhead door set up to accommodate shipping and receiving from a semi-truck. There’s also a shared forklift available for those who are certified.

“(The manufacturing tenants) are looking for a place that is affordable, and that has the power sources they need, as well as the on-site business resources,” Slade said.

Pamco Executive Suites – Fox Cities

For more than two decades, Pamco Suites have been an option for start-ups and smaller businesses needing first-class, all-inclusive professional office space in the Fox Cities.

Today the company boasts two locations conveniently positioned near U.S. 41 in the Fox Cities: one in Appleton’s Northeast Business Park near the Ballard Road exit and the other just south of Fox River Mall in the town of Grand Chute.

Pamco founder and CEO Pam Baumann said both buildings are currently full, with her longest tenant holding office for 19 years and the average tenancy at 13 years. A third building with more than 20 offices is currently being leased by another larger company, and Baumann is preparing to sell it altogether.

Different from most traditional incubators, Pamco provides each of its clients a litany of services and amenities that are all inclusive, such as dedicated phone lines and hardwired Internet service, a fulltime receptionist to greet clients and take tenant’s phone calls, contemporary furnishings and shared office equipment with no additional charges for printing and copying up to a limited number each month.

A serial entrepreneur herself, Baumann said she created Pamco’s business model based on tenants not feeling “nickeled and dimed for additional services.

“Everything is included in the price of a suite,” Baumann said. “It’s easier for tenants to budget, and it’s easier for us to bill.”

Another unique offering is that Pamco allows tenants to share suites with another business, citing as an example a consultant who uses the office by day and a counselor who meets with patients during evening hours.

Virtual tenant options are available starting at $200 per month for home-based or journeyman businesses who want mail collected at a business address, as well as use of a conference room and office equipment.

Brown County Culinary Kitchen – Green Bay

If food is your business, be it catering, candymaking, bakery or any other pursuit, the nearly 3-year-old Brown County Culinary Kitchen offers all the amenities of a fully equipped, commercially-licensed kitchen without any of the overhead.

This shared-use kitchen incubator located at the campus of N.E.W. Curative Rehabilitation on Green Bay’s far northeast side is available to reserve and use fully for just $15 an hour, according to Slade, who also manages the culinary kitchen through its partnership with Advance.

Each person who uses the facility must be licensed to prepare food, Slade said, but the one-time $150 intake fee users pay includes assistance navigating the relatively quick and inexpensive process to become licensed.

The kitchen includes most of the equipment and some of the utensils chefs would need. There’s a convection oven, commercial stoves, refrigerators, freezers, mixer, dishwasher, stainless steel work tables and baker’s racks.

“There’s very little equipment that you would need to bring in,” explained Slade, noting there are storage bins available for regular users of the kitchen incubator to store any personal utensils and other materials.

A few examples of entities using the facility include a food truck, chocolatier, cupcake maker, salsa maker, a spice blend processor and other confectioners.

The culinary kitchen uses an advanced reservation scheduling system and is available 24 hours a day.

Center for Enterprise Development – Fond du Lac

Conveniently located downtown within the offices of Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp., The Center, as it’s known, has become a destination for startups, nonprofits and out-of-the-area businesses working out of Fond du Lac just a few days a month.

Open just shy of three years, the space was designed to unlock imagination with its distinct lounge outfitted with a creative toy box, comfortable furnishings and even a chess board.

The four roughly 100-sq. ft. offices it holds are full and have been full much of the past year. Yet, its other spaces – like the lounge mentioned earlier and its boardroom – have some appeal as popular destinations to rent for other start ups, smaller businesses and other organizations in the community. With a rental cost of $125 for a half day, some smaller manufacturers that don’t have much office space use it for conducting job interviews or employee training, according to Jo Ann Giese-Kent, director of entrepreneurship and business intelligence for Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp. Other companies have rented it for a half-day employee retreat.

Like the Advance Business Center in Green Bay, The Center in Fond du Lac offers its tenants ready access to the breadth of professional business development skills and expertise its economic development staff offers, including some resources for basic market research. More complex data capabilities to research market expansion possibilities are available for as little as $50 an hour, Giese-Kent said.

The Center can even provide tenants with more advanced IT requirements, such as a server at a nominal monthly rate.

“It’s a very reasonable way to have a presence (in the Fond du Lac market), and have an office,” Giese-Kent said.

The Avenue HQ – Appleton

Launched just this past summer, The Avenue HQ in downtown Appleton reaches out to the creative-class entrepreneur eager to collaborate with others in an open, flexible setting.

The wood and glass interior inspires productivity, and a wall-sized chalkboard in the common area lounge encourages creativity.

“It’s worth mentioning that all of our desks and tables are made out of repurposed bowling lanes, which goes really well with stained concrete and the general relaxed and industrial feel of the place,” said Matthew Straub, community manager and a co-founder of The Avenue HQ.

Four offices can each accommodate up to four workstations, and start at a cost of $450 per month. Reserved desks are available for as little as $150 per month. Shared office equipment is available to all co-workers, as is the conference room and the kitchenette.

Co-working memberships start at $75 per month.

Regus – Appleton

Established recently this past October, Regus brings its international franchise model of executive office solutions to a convenient location a stone’s throw from the College Avenue interchange with U.S. 41.

The Appleton office was established as a number of Regus clients from other Midwest offices began requesting a location in the Fox Valley to serve their business growth into northeast Wisconsin. With more than 1,700 locations in North America, members have access to a Regus office no matter which city they travel to for business. That can be a powerful tool for a business to expand into new geographic markets without the risk of additional overhead.

The Appleton location includes 72 offices, as well as a handful of “cul de sacs,” separately-locked suites of two to three offices with a private waiting area.

Regus bases its business model on flexibility for its tenants and members. The base price for a permanent office, virtual office or membership can be augmented with a broad menu of options such as phone service, Internet, telephone answering service, even full-fledged server hosting.

“With Regus, we recognize that not every business operates the same and not every business has the same needs,” said Michele Barnes, general manager for Regus in Appleton.

Regus offers its members administrative services in as little as 15-minutes blocks for a cost of less than $1 a minute.

Its Refresh beverage lounge offers an inviting place to choose from a variety of coffees, teas or cappuccinos while catching the latest market updates from the television news. Members don’t even need to worry about doing their own dishes.

Because of its size, Regus offers a scope of business services a number of others simply can’t provide. It has an on-site Staples store to provide immediate, on-demand office supplies. A distinguishing hallmark of Regus, it offers core I.T. service to help tenants troubleshoot minor issues and connect seamlessly into their own virtual private network. That I.T. prowess is on display in a server closet exposed to the entire facility behind glass doors and accented by futurist blue neon lights.

“We are an extension of your business,” Barnes said. “People can come in with their laptop and plug and play.”

Tenants are easily able to transition into larger offices or suites as they grow, or transfer their leases to Regus locations in other cities as the geographical demands of their tenants’ business services change.

“It’s the safest way to expand your business,” Barnes said.

The Docking Station – Green Bay

An inviting spot to collaborate with other creative entrepreneurs in Green Bay’s chic Broadway District, the 3-year-old Docking Station offers convenience and comfort at an affordable price.

Its five offices and three reserved desks are full, but the owners are planning a small-scale interior renovation project for January to repurpose the space and create room for at least two additional offices. It’s had a waiting list to get into one of the offices among its other co-working members for some time, said Dana VanDen Heuvel, who co-founded The Docking Station along with partner Peter Nugent.

Co-working memberships start at $55 a month and allow members many of the same amenities of the space as tenants are entitled.

The concept of co-working was relatively new to Green Bay when The Docking Station opened in 2011. Since then, the tenant roster has come to include a financial services firm, insurance agent, attorney, fundraising company and property management firm, among others. VanDen Heuvel said even with such a diverse array of entrepreneurs, nearly everyone has discovered value in the day-to-day conversations with fellow co-workers that have lead to better business management decisions.

“The proximity to people and the ambient motivation that went along with that was exactly what we expected to have happen,” VanDen Heuvel said.