Blog - What are Incubators?

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceCity of Burlington

Economic Development Office

September 29, 2021


Business Incubators Are Here to Stay


What are incubators? 

Business incubators are companies that specialize in assisting entrepreneurs in their start up ventures by providing various services and resources. The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) defines the business incubator as an economic development tool designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services. Most commonly, incubators provide a shared working space for entrepreneurs to work collaboratively and make use of the varying support services, like, management training, advisory services, access to capital sources (loans, grants), assistance with core business operations (accounting, marketing), and access to office space and other operating resources (hardware).


Are there different types of incubators? 

Yes, there is a range of incubators that specialize in different industries, such as, social issues, aging and quality of life enhancements, education, energy, health, artists and makers, fashion, and technology.


Where are a few existing incubators in North Carolina?

  1. Ventureprise Portal Building- Charlotte, North Carolina
  2. Cape Fear Regional Community Development Corp- Wilmington, North Carolina
  3. Business Accelerator for Sustainable Entrepreneurship- Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  4. Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship- Greensboro, North Carolina 

How do incubators and co-working spaces look in the post-covid era

After briefly speaking with representatives from the two oldest business incubators in North Carolina, founded in 1987, it is evident that incubators are here to stay. COVID-19 left many businesses stagnant or in worse condition than before the pandemic. Nonetheless, the business incubators successfully navigated the obstacles presented throughout 2020. Read below for two first-hand accounts of business incubators livelihood in a post-covid realm.   


Triangle South Enterprise Center (TSEC)

The community college small business center is partnered with the TSEC. The Triangle South Enterprise Center hosted virtual courses in collaboration with the small business center. This mechanism was already in place before the coronavirus, but it proved to be a great way to enhance the information and resources available to support small businesses. Currently, the center is slowly transitioning back to a face-to-face learning environment. However, for the most part, they remained open throughout the pandemic, and like many, the business incubator and its clients had to learn how to pivot and market to better themselves and their businesses to survive.


Each incubator is different from the next because of the resources and partnerships, which is key to the success of business incubators. In addition, people need to be aware of the incubator’s existence. This can be promoted through its numerous partners, whether that be the community college, the city, the county, or other non-profits.   An “all-hands-on deck” approach facilitates the success of business incubators. With a continued focus on the promotion of services and resources offered by the TSEC and deliberate formation of strategic partnerships, entrepreneurs will drive through any difficult era. 


Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship

The pandemic only changed the accessibility of the Nussbaum Center and forced clients to tighten their visitation ability. There were no in-person seminars, but the 6 service partners in the building continued to meet people virtually through zoom. The traditional model of incubators will remain successful, because their success isn’t tied to the physical location. Instead, it is closely aligned with the support of their trusted partners and their 34 years of experience. Similarly, to the TSEC, visibility is crucial to the viability of incubators. The Nussbaum Center relies on word-of-mouth promotion from clients and partners, a strong social media presence, and press releases. The representative from the Center also confirmed that incubators are here to stay!


Some things never change, and it is nice to know that community collaboration is enhancing innovation in North Carolina.



Chandler Vaughan, Project Manager, EYOS Fellow



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City Contact 

Chandler Vaughan 

425 S. Lexington Ave. 

Burlington, NC27215