Columbus Small Businesses Start Their Engines at These Incubators

Emily Thompson

What began as a Franklinton art collective has grown into a cultural hub that's home to nearly 100 artist studios, a food court, a farmers market and fitness classes. This month, 400 West Rich will add co-working-shared workspace for freelancers and independent entrepreneurs-to its resume.

After founding Forge Columbus in May 2013, Reese Neader was looking for headquarters for the organization, which supports and grows community projects and local businesses. "As the idea of needing space evolved, I noticed that there's a massive need in Columbus for more co-working space," Neader says. So he partnered with 400 West Rich to create Forgeworks, a second-floor, 3,900-square-foot space with offices and desks for rent, co-working tables and a full-service kitchen.

Forge Columbus isn't the only organization working to get local businesses off the ground. Here, we explore a few other local co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators (incubators help businesses get started, while accelerators help them grow).


1275 Kinnear Rd., Campus, 614-487-3700,

Best for: Techies with a startup idea or small business

How it works: Prospective entrepreneurs attend the three-day Concept Academy, during which they define their business and learn whether it's a good fit for TechColumbus' services, including educational resources, networking, funding and more. The organization's 62,000-square-foot SpringBox Labs has space for up to 40 companies.

Success stories: Since it was founded in 2005, TechColumbus has served more than 500 entrepreneurs and companies, including those in the energy, life sciences and information technology fields.

The Women's Small Business Accelerator

403 W. Main St., Westerville, 614-414-2449,

Best for: Women entrepreneurs and business owners

How it works: WSBA has seven (and counting) office spaces for rent, as well as educational resources including a mentoring program for entrepreneurs and a six-month educational program that helps get businesses off the ground.

Success stories: The organization's specialty is "Main Street businesses," including restaurants and leadership consulting firms. Modern Southern Table, which started as a Friday dinner club and won a restaurant space on the Food Network's "Food Court Wars," began at WSBA, along with Rooted Beauty, a skincare product line that benefits human-trafficking survivors.

Columbus Idea Foundry

421 W. State St., Franklinton,

Best for: Creative people who need access to tools and workspace

How it works: All prospective members must take at least two CIF classes before applying for a $35 monthly membership that gives them access to tools and resources. Makers can also rent a workbench (CIF's version of co-working that they call "co-fabbing" for co-fabrication), and the organization leases 20 studios with plans to expand by next summer.

Success stories: About 50 CIF members are entrepreneurs or own a small business creating art products or providing tech services. Base Two, IC3D, Knockout Concepts and AriesGate Technologies Inc. were launched at CIF.

Economic and Community Development Institute

1655 Old Leonard Ave., East Side, 614-559-0115,

Best for: Anyone who needs a microloan or business resources

How it works: ECDI provides loans and resources for small businesses, education, purchasing a home and more. The organization runs the Women's Business Center for women entrepreneurs and Food Fort, a food-business incubator that's helped several local food trucks and restaurants get their start.

Success stories: Between offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo, ECDI has helped create and expand more than 2,500 businesses. (ECDI also provided funding for Modern Southern Table.)