The Marshall University Brad D. Smith Business Incubator is ready to help fledgling businesses take the next step.
The business incubator, housed in the Visual Arts Center in downtown Huntington, assists entrepreneurs and business professionals get their ideas and business models off the ground. Two local groups are taking advantage of the space to develop new businesses they feel could help the community.
Kim Eastman and Brenda Sheldon started Hospitality Cleaning Solutions LLC in 2011 and have worked with hotels such as Marriott, Residence Inn and Hampton Inn to contract housekeeping and janitorial services. The company has expanded in nine years to work with federal and state agencies, along with commercial clients in four different states providing janitorial work. They have recently expanded into operations, maintenance and security work as well.
Now Eastman and Sheldon have a new idea. Through the incubator they’ll start Impact Employment. This new business venture will focus on helping individuals coming out of recovery find new employment opportunities. Impact Employment has already worked with Lifehouse Ministries in Huntington to help recovered individuals find their way back into the work environment.
Eastman says the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator was exactly what Impact Employment needed to get on firm footing in the Huntington community.
"We’re excited to be one of the first tenants in the incubator. The mentorship, networking and services offered by the incubator and their partners will help Impact Employment grow much more rapidly than if the business did not have access to Marshall’s resources," Eastman said.
The networking opportunities available to new businesses is also what made the incubator such a great opportunity for North American Consulting Services, or NACS Inc. The cybersecurity firm, originating with brothers Justin and Joe Jarrell in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, saw the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator as a great opportunity.
The firm started in 2004 offering cybersecurity services to the federal government, based on Justin Jarrell’s experience in the Air Force. But recently he decided to expand NACS into working in the Tri-State area, providing cybersecurity consulting to local business, such as accounting and law firms, medical practices and other business entities. The connections, he says, are invaluable.
"The resources that the incubator provides us, makes us feel like we’re at a restaurant and the maître d’ is having all of the waiters catering to our every need," Justin Jarrell said. "They help us with whatever we would need."
He also says it’s just not the resources Marshall provides, but he hopes to hire students.
"We have one intern already from Marshall and we hope to have more, by working with the university helping to prepare these students for what the private sector needs," Justin Jarrell said. "Then, we’d like to bring them aboard."
Jim Rorrer and Casey Robinson, interim co-directors of the incubator, are enthusiastic about the opportunity to help develop these new ideas. Rorrer says they just want to see new ideas thrive in the community.
"We’re excited about the opportunity to help these businesses get started in Huntington," Rorrer said. "When great new ideas like these work, it’s a great thing for Huntington and Marshall University."
To apply to be a part of the incubator, entrepreneurs can visit www.marshall.edu/incubator and visit the Applications and Eligibility tab. For more information contact Rorrer at 304-696-5120.
Photo: Joe Jarrell (right) and Aedan Somerville (left) of North American Consulting Services discuss a project while working at the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator.