Bethesda incubator fosters green businesses
Eco-friendly companies share ideas, resources
An energy co-op, a rain barrel company and a research company that determines the "greenness" of consumer products are among the eight businesses joining the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, which officially opened on Thursday in downtown Bethesda.
The incubatorwhich helps young eco-conscious companies with cheap rents and business support serviceswill allow new businesses to get on their feet alongside like-minded entrepreneurs.
"We have that overlap with each other and we're going to be able to cooperate and help one another," said Mike Kennedy, founder of Bethesda Energy Co-op. "You go a little shack wacky working on your own at home, so it's nice to be able to bounce ideas off other people."
The incubator is housed at Bethesda Green, a nonprofit geared toward energy efficiency, recycling and a communitywide environmental ethic located on Cordell Avenue in Bethesda.
It is the sixth government-sponsored incubator in the county, joining locations in Rockville, Wheaton, Germantown, Silver Spring and Shady Grove. Funding for the incubator was buoyed by a $150,000 grant from the county, as well as contributions from Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman, Federal Realty, Chevy Chase Bank, Calvert Group, and Donohoe Construction. And while all the companies at the incubator are environmentally-focused, the list reads like an eco-friendly version of "The Breakfast Club."
There's the rain barrel company, the green marketing maven, the electric car guy, the energy co-op, the one-stop green shop, the researcher, the software provider and the community-supported agriculture farm.
For the "incubatees," a nickname created by one of the tenants, having people from so many different types of companies can only be a good thing.
"There's a lot of sharing of contacts and sources, even things like Where did you get your printing done?'" said John Jabara, founder of Savenia, a company that determines the environmental impact of consumer products. "It's a totally diverse group of people, and everyone brings something else to the table."
Rent runs about $250 a month for 10 hours of space a week, and the companies share four workstations in the 3,000-square-foot Bethesda Green headquarters, said Bethesda Green Spokesman Dave Heffernan.
Heffernan said phone calls have been coming in all week from companies wanting to join, and Bethesda Green will accommodate as many of them as they can. Companies apply individually, and then Bethesda Green officials review each application to determine whether the company's mission matches the nonprofit's.
Thursday's grand opening was attended by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), and Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown swung by and checked out the incubator Monday after a meeting in downtown Bethesda.
"The incubatee companies are thrilled with what we've established here," Heffernan said. "It's a work space, yes, but what this really offers is the connections to people in their field."
The incubator isn't just useful for brand-new companies. Barry Chenkin started Aquabarrel, a rain barrel company, in 2005. The company has been profitable, but now he's looking for ways to improve his business model.
"By being in the incubator program, I'll be able to identify the people or money or resources needed to grow a business where I live, work, and play," he said. "I will have a business plan that better reflects where I want my company to be in the future."
Eight companies have joined the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, which opened on Thursday.
-Aquabarrel: a rain barrel company
-Bethesda Energy Co-op: a cooperative designed to create socially and environmentally sustainable energy
-E-Car Solutions: creates stations to charge electric cars
-4GreenPs: a green marketing company
-The Menare Foundation: a community-supported farm
-MovementGTI: helps businesses ship packages in an environmentally-friendly way
-Savenia: a research company that determines the environmental impact of consumer products
-SeeEco: online marketplace for green products