August is National Black Business Month. And in Buffalo, New York, it will mark the official opening of Ignite Labs, a coworking and incubator space at the Exchange at Beverly Gray.
The Exchange at Beverly Gray is an incubator and coworking space that serves primarily black and brown business owners and entrepreneurs. Ignite Labs will be the newest addition to provide one of the first minority-serviced incubator programs in the area
The Exchange’s building looks out onto the parking lot of what should be a mundane location: Tops Grocery store. Instead, this is the site of a horrific shooting and act of race-driven hatred. It’s something that left Ignite Labs Executive Director Derrick Parson with no uncertainty that it could just as easily happen there.
“I'm trying to figure out what the Exchange at Beverly Gray can do,” he shared. “We're rooted in the vision of pushing businesses forward. So, we’re trying to figure out what that looks like. How do we help the Black and Brown businesses in the community that need assistance? How do we be that bigger brother to provide those services, funding any and all things that we can do?”
But even in the shadow of such senseless violence outside their doors, Ignite Labs is moving forward.
“We offer an incubation program, followed by acceleration workshops. Then we provide mentorship and coaching. And finally we connect founders to funding sources.”
They’re not on their own. The Lab has a partnership with the University at Buffalo that provides additional access and benefits to expand the impact of the program, including that any member that forms a business under us can hire employees and be exempt from New York state tax, they can access the University at Buffalo law school for legal assistance, and leverage Maven, a platform for top notch industry people to help with research and customer discovery.
In addition, Ignite Labs will run on Coworks coworking software, allowing members to use a mobile app to book rooms and resources, and staff to manage billing, events, and reporting through a streamlined dashboard.
“We chose Coworks because of the option to open more campuses — the platform can grow along with us,” Parson said.
Community members come from all kinds of businesses, from food service to tech to consumer goods.
“We want to inundate our members with services,” Parson said. “These are entrepreneurs who are looking to create innovative solutions. And these partnerships are extremely important, because a lot of the minority entrepreneurs who do delve into the startup life find that one of the hardest things is to initially validate and prove your hypothesis — when you have no money to do it. And so this program is actually specifically for them.”