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Successful graduate companies can support your incubation program in many ways, from mentoring entrepreneurs to providing financial contributions to donating services. Learn how to develop and nurture these important relationships.

Coming back to give back: Incubator graduates are resources for incubators and clients

by Linda Knopp

June 2005

Too many incubation programs lose contact with their graduates after the companies become successful and leave the nest. That’s too bad, many incubator managers say, because these experienced entrepreneurs can be strong program assets. They can serve as mentors to new start-up clients, provide monetary contributions to the incubator, or serve on the boards of client companies or the incubator itself. And it’s not just the incubator and its new clients that stand to benefit from these ongoing relationships. Many incubator graduates gain useful advice and experience by mentoring nascent firms.

Developing relationships that will endure once the graduation ceremonies are over doesn’t happen overnight though. “That’s why it’s so important to take good care of these companies while they’re clients,” says Lee Huang, executive vice president of The Enterprise Center in Philadelphia. “That way, these companies … grow up thankful and continue to come back and give back.”

As the examples in this story illustrate, that giving can take several forms. Some graduates donate their time to trade entrepreneurial war stories with new business owners at incubator seminars; others contribute financially by writing checks or donating services to help incubators assist other new businesses. Whatever form the assistance takes, graduate involvement is an asset every incubation program should develop fully, many incubator managers say. Read on for more details about how several NBIA members have nurtured ongoing relationships with their graduates to benefit a new generation of incubator clients.

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Keywords: anchor tenant, funding sources/fundraising -- incubator, marketing and promotion, mentoring program, volunteer management

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