USF Incubator Supports New Businesses

January 18, 2017 | Joliet, Ill.

Students work through cash flow projections at the University of St. Francis Business Incubator, located in downtown Joliet.

The new year brings new opportunities everywhere we turn. It is a time to start over, refocus and realign ourselves with our personal goals. Now is the perfect time to start turning your business or product ideas into a reality and the University of St. Francis (USF) Business Incubator can help. Thirteen start-ups have committed to growing their business with the help of the incubator… will you be the 14th?

“Choosing the entrepreneurship route is not for the faint of heart. It takes dedication, time, ingenuity, perseverance, and the ability to work through failure,” commented incubator chairman Dr. Bonnie Covelli. “This is where our incubator can help. By providing office space, access to mentors and workshops, members can spend more time growing their business and less time searching for resources. They can access it all in one space at the USF Incubator.”

Entrepreneurs hoping to enter the incubator program must apply for admission. A team of individuals from the university and the regional community evaluates the application for fit and reviews the incubator’s ability to assist the entrepreneur. After acceptance, an access agreement is required. For the first year, the incubator is available free of charge.

Road Operatives, a transportation company in Joliet is the newest member of the incubator and is already feeling the positive impact of their membership. The start-up was able to legitimize their presence since joining in 2017.

“Joining the USF Incubator has helped our business be more legitimate with the companies that we contract with as well as potential employees and contractors that are interested in working with us,” says Jennifer Law, CFO of Road Operatives. “We also gained a lot of resources in the form of an office equipped with everything that we’d need to run our business without having to worry about up front out of pocket costs so we can focus on expanding our business.”

Since its inception in 2014, the USF Business Incubator has accepted 13 start-ups that demonstrated the ability to benefit from the membership. Of these businesses, 77% have been minority-owned and 69% have been women-owned or co-owned by women. Of the 13 businesses, 38% are still benefiting from the incubator and over 20% have gone on to support themselves or moved on to a larger incubator in order to seek greater funding from investors.

“Entrepreneurs within the incubator work with each other, with students, and with mentors to hopefully bring their business plan to the next stage. Success is when the entrepreneur graduates and leaves the incubator and moves to the next step of their business journey,” says Covelli.

Quasar Design is one such business. With the guidance acquired at the USF Incubator, CEO Yuri Gallgeos was able to seek funding for the chemical-free mosquito trap called The ELIMIFLY. The ELIMIFLY raised 132% of its original Kickstarter funding goal, netting over $13,000.

“I’m glad that I started at the USF Business Incubator,” commented Gallegos. “The guidance from professors and mentors was invaluable to my business.”

Toni Greathouse, CEO of Custom Community Creations, LLC, has also enjoyed great success through the incubator. Through its resources and support, Greathouse was able to launch a Route 66-themed adult coloring book in 2016. Walmart has since picked up the book and began selling it in stores as well as online.

“The tagline for the incubator is ‘Where Ideas Are Born,’ and that is an accurate reflection of my experience,” commented Greathouse. “I took advantage of every opportunity extended—be it seminars, mentorship opportunities or access to speakers.”

The USF Business Incubator maintains an intimate number of admitted start-ups and is focused on the individual needs of the entrepreneurs.

“We seek to pair the entrepreneurs with mentors and resources that can help evaluate whether or not their business plan is viable,” commented Covelli. “Not all start-ups are successful, but the incubator helps navigate these business stages for those that put in the time and effort to modify and update their plans.”

Located at the St. Bonaventure Campus in downtown Joliet, the USF Business Incubator provides tools and access to expertise for entrepreneurs looking to take their business to the next level. The space provides a co-working environment perfect for start-ups, community members and students studying entrepreneurship. The layout promotes learning and conversation and includes access to desk space, high speed wireless internet, phone, printing and copying needs. For more information, please visit stfrancis.edu/business-incubator.

Founded in 1920, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., is a Catholic, Franciscan university that serves 4,100 students nationwide; offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are more than 48,000 USF alumni across the globe.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.