Sets her sights on Four Points area to market new business center
By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
With a background in investment banking, corporate finance as well as co-founding a successful real estate development company, Steiner Ranch-resident Karen Spindler made local history as the first director of the Concordia University Texas Incubator for Innovation and Impact.
“I am an entrepreneur,” Spindler said. “I invest in other entrepreneurs. I love to be part of that ecosystem to help people with their businesses, to help them realize their dreams.”
She assumed her position at the top of the program situated on the Four Points campus of Concordia, 11400 Concordia University Drive, Oct. 2 and said she has spent the past month meeting people in the school “and mak(ing) the incubator more visible to people, internally and externally.”
Setting program priorities
The incubator, a partnership between the university and Tech Ranch, launched May 18 to provide a facility and support for local entrepreneurs and small business owners. Tech Ranch is an Austin-based venture with educational and development programs that assist budding entrepreneurs in their business growth.
For a set fee, incubator members gain access to a working space, student assistance and university facilities, among other benefits.
“What we really have to offer, as differentiated from just a coworking space, is that interaction with the students as potential interns, or (students) working on projects on an informal (basis),” Spindler said. “And, working with faculty. We have a group of industry experts in the community who have volunteered to be mentors here. As we have more and more members, we’ll have regular office hours that people can come and, if they have a marketing question, then we might have a table of mentors who specifically could help with marketing issues.”
She said her aim is to market the center to its surrounding corridor, from the city of Lakeway to Anderson Mill Road, including Steiner Ranch and River Place neighborhoods, as well as the Cedar Park and Loop 360/RM 2222/Hwy. 183 areas. Three out of the five current incubator members stem from the Four Points area and Spindler said she hopes to solicit a total of 30 members.
Spindler has scheduled coffee meetings throughout the month of November in Steiner Ranch, River Place and the Westlake area to present news of what the incubator offers to the local community.
“I’m trying to make a marketing push,” Spindler said. “I’m going into the different communities (and) calling it my Incubator Roadshow.”
She said she was beginning her efforts in Steiner Ranch, holding a coffee Nov. 7. She said she is scheduling similar events within a 20-25 minute drive from the incubator’s campus site.
“I envision this as really the incubator and the place to do business in Northwest Austin if you have a business where you want to create impact and you think you can have a synergy with the university,” Spindler said.
How Incubator for Innovation and Impact works
Members of Concordia University Texas Incubator for Innovation and Impact pay $350 per month to belong to the program that provides:
- 24/7 access to the incubator facility;
- Student hirees, either through an internship endeavor or outright, including the university’s M.B.A. program;
- Access to meeting rooms and other university venues;
- Access to the university gymnasium;
- Free parking;
- Free Wi-Fi;
- Discounted meals in the university cafeteria; and
- Access to the center’s lecture series.
History of Incubator for Innovation and Impact
The Incubator for Innovation and Impact is funded by a 2013 gift from the Bill Thomas family in the amount of $250,000. The donation was earmarked to establish a center for business excellence, Director Kristin Spindler said.
“So this program has been in the process for many years and this incubator is a culmination of that effort,” said Spindler, who lives in Steiner Ranch.
Although the daily expenses of the program are supported by Concordia University Texas funds, Spindler said she hopes to see the incubator become self-supporting.
Zeet Consulting part of incubator
By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
For entrepreneur Annie Hardy, principal and founder of Zeet Consulting, the Incubator for Innovation and Impact was a good fit for her business that conducts research and builds strategies — including marketing, promotion and brand positioning — for digital production companies.
“The idea that I would have access to professors; students (including) sociology and anthropology; M.B.A. students; (and) marketing students who are currently being educated in some of the most up-to-date ways to really connect with people and conduct research was very appealing to me,” Hardy said. “As I look at growing my business, there are certain parts of my business that students can help with, such as scheduling appointments and scribing during interviews.”
She said she also appreciates being in a university setting to be able to “give back and pull in students to listen when I’m conducting a competitive analysis and presenting a brand positioning workshop.”
“To give back at the same time, creating a symbiotic relationship—I’m at a point in my company where I don’t have to only take, I can give.”