36 Squared Executive Director Andrew Fogaty stands ready to help local small businesses.

McKinley Park Incubator Brings Support for Entrepreneurs, Small Business

Published March 8, 2018

The 36squared Business Incubator Sponsored by CIBC is up and running in the McKinley Park neighborhood and ready to offer free help to local businesses and entrepreneurs.

 "We provide everything from writing a basic business plan through getting funding," said Executive Director Andrew Fogaty. "Our role is to provide free business help."

Headquartered in the large former warehouse buidling at 3636 S. Iron St., the incubator is an official Illinois Small Business Development Center, a government-affiliated organziation designed to provide assistance to small enterprises. For example, many grants and incentives are available to assist small business, and engaging with the incubator makes it easy to find out what might be available and how to best pursue these opportunities, Fogaty said.

36Squared Elena Valentine Skill Scout Skill Scout CEO Elena Valentine works on a customer presentation in her office in the 36Squared incubator.One thing that sets the 36Squared apart is its size, with 186,000 square feet available for rent to tenants. About 22 businesses currently occupy the building, with room for many more. This allows for greater flexibility than some other incubator locations, Fogaty said.

"What I'm trying to do here is very much ala carte," he said. "I try to give people the help they need and ask for, rather than stringent standards." One notable difference for 36Squared is not placing an end date on incubator engagements. Also, a business does not need to be a tenant of the building to get help from the incubator.

The incubator started up in the McKinley Park neighborhood in late 2016. Fogaty had been running a Small Business Development Center on the Northwest Side when a client suggested he investigate the 36Squared building. "We approached the owners of the building, who had decided to move toward small business," he said.

After lining up initial funding from the CIBC bank and from UPS, the effort was able to move forward. Another major source of support and affiliation came from the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, with which the incubator is affiliated, Fogaty said.

The local business environment can really use the incubator, as the local B2B climate is heating up, Fogaty said. "People are moving out of the West Side. These kind of maker spaces on the West Side aren’t available anymore."

Incubator clients run the gamut of business types and needs, Fogaty said, including food businesses, light manufacturing, intermodal transportation and marketing. "In my experience, a lot of this is about fund-raising and investors," Fogaty said, and noted that helping businesses find funding is one of the incubator's roles.

36Squared regularly hosts business-centric events and has some planned for this spring, including a Small Business Administration lenders forum and a DIY website info session. Anyone who wants more information or to start the process of getting help for their business is welcome to get in touch, Fogaty said.

36Squared Executive Director Andrew Fogaty reviews some of the available space at the incubator.
36Squared Executive Director Andrew Fogaty reviews some of the available space at the incubator.

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