The Fledge in Grand Ledge is an incubator on steroids.
Not just an incubator, it also doubles (triples and quadruples even) as a recording studio, an art studio, a skate park, a co-working space, a conference center and more.
Using an innovative approach of combining the skills of their tenants (or Fledglings), the Fledge not only helps entrepreneurs start businesses but also encourages collaboration, community, and creativity. This creativity, combined with determination, is apparent as you walk through the Fledge and find walls spray painted with phrases like, “Sponsor yourself,” and “Every Damn Day.” There are bits of projects in process and teams spread out across the space with their heads together.
— Startup Lansing (@StartupLansing) September 13, 2015
Since the businesses are encouraged to work together, each utilizing the skills of the other, entrepreneurs know if they fail, they have a support system that will help them back on their feet. In fact, Fledglings are encouraged to “Fail Forward Fast,” says Co-Founder Jerry Norris. And, it was this philosophy on which the Fledge was started. Together with local councilman, Keith Mulder, Jerry took his experience from his skateboard incubator and started The Fledge. Today, the Fledge doesn’t simply offer a place for entrepreneurs to start their businesses. It offers programs, events and activities that encourage others to pursue their passions, follow their dreams, learn and grow. From events like Trash Day, where participants use E-waste to create a prototype of a product, to their upcoming pitch competition (for the K-12 crowd), 5 Minute Tops, Fledglings are finding new and innovative ways to build their skills and their businesses.
Jerry Norris Keith Mulder
The Problem Being Solved
The goal of the Fledge is to improve and promote a culture of entrepreneurship in Mid-Michigan and to help start businesses that can fill office and retail space in Grand Ledge.
The Fledge is open to entrepreneurs of all ages and walks. “We are looking for any person who has a desire to be an entrepreneur, willing to learn, willing to work hard, and can take some initiative to make their own dreams come true,” says Jerry. “We are very inclusive.”
[Tweet “”We are looking for any person who has a desire to be an entrepreneur and can take some initiative to make their own dreams come true,” @GLFledge via @startuplansing”]
Jerry and the Fledge team have been excited to see the community respond. “We are excited by the fact that entrepreneurship can be embraced by any person of any age,” says Jerry. “We have seen diversity in age, geography, education, and culture and race. We see people here from ages 5 to 69, from Grand Rapids to Detroit, PhDs to students struggling with high school, and a very wide range of culture and race.”
The Fledge has struggled with determining revenue streams and figuring out a way to monetize each of them. But, by slowly finding “owners” of each area and having them take the lead on the monetization, they have begun to tackle that challenge. For example, Jerry says, “Matt Waterman, a local musician has been instrumental in getting the Music Studio off the ground. Chris Andrews, a Fledgling software company at the Fledge has been key in getting the Grand Ledge Coding Club and the Gaming Club off the ground. And, the Robotics Club has their first meeting tonight (October 27th)
Jerry has seen many entrepreneurs struggle to find the time and bandwidth to start their own business. But, Jerry adds, “We have been surprised at how diverse our age range is and how many people are sticking with it day after day.”
While they are not raising money at this point, they have applied for one grant from LEAP / RIN to help with some equipment and programming. “We are trying hard to create sustainable systems and models so we can survive on our own way into the future.”
In one year, the Fledge would like to have more space, offer more programming, and create revenue to really build some meaningful assets. In coming years, they hope to add more incubators and see a few of their Fledgings fly into the world, find success, and help them scale across the country.
#Sponsoryourself #EveryDamnDay and fail forward fast.
Connect & Compete
On November 17th, The Fledge’s K-12 Pitch Competition kicks off. Register your ideas or just come to watch. Find More info on their website.