by Olga Peters, Vermont Business Magazine This winter, the Vermont Innovation Box, a coworking space and incubator program, will open in downtown Bennington.
Once open, VIB has the potential to become part of a network of support for entrepreneurs. One such effort is the Bennington County Regional Commission’s entrepreneurial support committee [see main story].
According to BCRC Executive Director Bill Colvin, people are reevaluating their work-life balance. Many are wondering if owning their own businesses represents a better career path.
“There's a lot of cool things happening in Bennington,” said Chris Willett, VIB operations curator. “I think if we can help grow all of that, it'll really stimulate the economy.”
Willett refers to the Bennington location as VIB3 [VIB cubed] and said plans for the space include 12 private offices, a large coworking area, a kitchenette, and meeting rooms.
He envisions the coworking space as a place that fosters innovation and creativity. Willett wants to attract entrepreneurs from all walks of life to share ideas, build a social network, and collaborate.
An incubator program is also in development through VIB. Willett hopes to connect with students at Bennington College and nearby Massachusetts colleges, Williams College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
The program has a tentative launch date of December, he said.
“It's up to private investors like us to try to drive businesses,” he said.
In Willett’s experience, Vermont has the potential to create innovative businesses. Accessing start-up capital, however, is almost impossible, he said.
VIB3 will move into the second floor of 425 Main Street, the current home of The Bennington Banner. In October, the newspaper will shift next door to the Star Electric building.
“With the acquisition of the paper, we inherited the buildings right on Main Street,” Willett explained.
Both entities are owned by businessman Paul Belogour who owns property and businesses in Bennington, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor counties.
Belogour purchased the Banner and its sister papers, The Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal, earlier this year.
According to Willett, VIB opened its first coworking space in January at 70 Landmark Hill Drive in Brattleboro. The offices filled quickly, and by the spring, he was searching for a second VIB space. He found the new home for VIB2 [VIB squared] in the C.F. Church Building at 80 Flat Street in Brattleboro’s downtown.
Willett said the VIB spaces are tied together. So members renting space at Landmark Hill in Brattleboro can also access the Flat Street and Bennington locations.
As of September, VIB’s incubator program was still in its fledgling form.
Willett said that the program has access to a network of mentors who want to help new businesses. He also hopes to draw on Belogour’s financial tech background and team of software engineers so new entrepreneurs can create online offerings such as storefronts.
A strong cohort of Bennington entrepreneurs could grow the economy, he said.
“We're here to help people take that idea and actually make it tangible,” he said. “We have a lot of resources that we can either utilize for them at no charge or at a very highly discounted rate. There's just a lot of things I think we can do to help stimulate growth in the economy.”
For more information, visit https://vtinbox.com