When you walk down Homan Avenue in Hammond, you may come across a nondescript building with a small sign. But big things are happening there.
The Hammond Innovation Center (HIC), located at 5209 Hohman Avenue in downtown Hammond, is a business incubator with the mission to, “help foster the growth and success of technology-based and small business start-up companies in the Hammond area.”
As part of the Hammond Development Corporation and partnered with the Hammond Redevelopment Corporation, the HIC looks to help develop skills within entrepreneurial-minded individuals who want to get their start-ups out of the garage and into a business location.
The incubator, which offers amenities like shared office space, conference rooms, and free training, is designed to help take small businesses to the next level. The businesses share expertise, as demonstrated by Anna Sheets, owner of Accounting Made Simple, who was helping Ruth Feledy from Partners in Contracting with Quickbooks-related issues.
This co-working style of business development helps people who may have a great idea, but may not have the technical background or experience in getting their business off the ground.
The HIC also has conference rooms and office space for one-time rentals as well. Their large conference room is great for a networking event, with plenty of room for up to 50 people.
”The fact that we’re not-for-profit and we’re able to help the community as much as we do means a great deal,” explained Natasa Drageljevic, marketing intern with the Hammond Development Corporation.
Another example of the services provided by the HIC is demonstrated by Bill Pishkar of Partners in Contracting Corporation, a full-time client at the HIC. Upon this visit, he can be seen counseling two entrepreneurs on how to get registered as a minority woman-owned business in the state of Indiana, advising the women on potential grants and loans available to them.
Some of the more advanced training services offered at the HIC includes the NxLevel Entrepreneurial Training Program that helps individuals launch and grow their business, and other services such as non-profit grant writing, human resource programs, disaster planning, and introductions to SBA loans.
The HIC is also teaming with local destinations in the art world to help bring more people into Downtown Hammond. Their partnerships with the Paul Henry Art Gallery and the Towle Theatre are just two examples of the HIC using art to promote business.
“We just try to make sure, even for businesses that are on their own, that we help get the word out about what’s happening in downtown Hammond,” explained Drageljevic.
And the HIC doesn’t just help adults develop their entrepreneurial spirit; the organization has created the Youth Enterprise Academy aimed at working with Northwest Indiana youth who want to learn how to take their ideas and transform them into working businesses. The program, still early in its inception, most recently saw students from seven schools from around Lake County get together to learn about business fundamentals and growth.
“The kids drew pictures of Hammond landmarks and our graphic design intern, Amal Khatib, took those drawings and created a calendar out of them,” Drageljevic explained. “And the kids, being the entrepreneurs they are, went around the community selling the calendars and selling ads to put in the calendar to benefit the student business.
“It taught them how to market themselves and how to market that calendar, which are two great things to learn at an early age.”
Another program from the Hammond Innovation Center focused on training veterans to become business owners. Their January 2013 Veterans Entrepreneurship classes saw the year’s highest attendance of any of the classes or programs offered by the HIC.
“It’s a great program,” she explained. “They can come in, use our computers, write up their resumes, cover letters and partnering with the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Coalition.”
For some businesses the Hammond Innovation Center was the launching pad for a successful venture. One came to the mind of Christine Griggs, office manager of the HIC.
“The really big success story is Vision Care Consulting, a marketing firm for healthcare providers. She started here with one office, expanded to three offices here, and eventually moved across the street into her own building.”
If you’re of the entrepreneurial mindset and have that great idea without the background to get that idea into motion, contact the Hammond INnovation Center today and they may be able to help you take your business from crawling to those first few steps.