Clubs for growth: City biz incubators give entrepreneurs a leg up

It could be the setup for a reality TV show: 12 emerging fashion designers working under the same roof in a garment center loft. Picture high-ceilings, exposed brick, flowing curtains and moveable walls, so workrooms can be transformed into showrooms in minutes.

In addition to the up-and-coming entrepreneurs, there are high-flying mentors — industry power brokers like Neiman Marcus editor Roopal Patel, Designer Management Agency brand-maker Marc Beckman, the list goes on. Fashion icons such as Diane von Furstenberg drop in to guest-lecture on how they made it to the top.


The result is a still-growing group of business hubs built around specific industries, including fashion, information technology, food production, green technology and the arts. They were conceived — and in some cases are run — in partnership with industry and university sponsors such as CFDA, or NYU Polytechnic Institute, which runs the tech incubator at 160 Varick St. And they’re enabled by sponsors in the real-estate sector who’ve provided subsidized space.


The first incubator, 160 Varick, opened in 2009 as an experiment of sorts. A joint venture between the city, NYU Polytech and Trinity Real Estate, it offered start-ups cheap rent ($250 a month for a desk), access to an affordable workforce (interns from NYU Poly), and the opportunity to work elbow to elbow with like-minded entrepreneurs.

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