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Hannah Grimes incubator in Keene readies for renovation

Union Leader Correspondent

August 24. 2014 8:22PM
Small business coach Helaine Iris, on the left, leads a Path of Purpose Coaching workshop at the Hannah Grimes Center in Keene recently, with Bill and Carrie Gendreau. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

KEENE - A $780,000 renovation of the Hannah Grimes business incubator building on Roxbury Street is set to start next month.

The project includes the renovation of the 4,000-square-foot second floor of the building that also includes a 6,200-square-foot first floor.The project is to start construction Sept. 15 and end Jan. 15, said Mary Ann Kristiansen, executive director of the Hannah Grimes Center.

'It will have a big conference room, it will hold up to 70 people and it will have eight new offices that we're planning,' she said.Hannah Grimes is still fundraising for the project, she said.

'We've got $500,000 of the $780,000. So we're still rolling along there,' she said.

The community is welcome to visit the center for an open house on Sept. 3, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.The incubator business center is only one part of Hannah Grimes, which also has a local products marketplace on Main Street that sells 320 locally made products.

'We also do things to kind of till the soil in the community,' Kristiansen said, whether by working on a community committee to bring better Internet access to the region, holding business workshops or by supporting angel investor groups, she said.'We recognize things that may be challenging to the entrepreneur's spirit in the community and we try to address them,' she said.

A strong and diverse local economy is the Hannah Grimes mission, she said.The Hannah Grimes Marketplace opened in 1997, followed by the business incubator the Hannah Grimes Center in 2006.

'We have nonprofits. We have people who have been in business for a long time and have come here to retool … and then we have startups,' Kristiansen said, from e-commerce startups, Internet Web designers, architects, lawyers, construction, nonprofits, photographers, land surveyors, marketing.'It's a pretty wide range of size, type, goals and stage,' she said.

Laina Barakat, executive director of MonIFF, said, 'Also as a new nonprofit in the community, and one that cares a lot about community relations, Hannah Grimes is sort of a stamp of approval.'Kathy Beaman also recently joined the Hannah Grimes incubator after being in business for 24 years.

When the economy was humming along, Beaman's modular home business was booming.

'I found in the good times we did really, really good,' Beaman said.But when the bad times came along I had to work harder and differently than I used to. And I found I really didn't have the business knowledge of different aspects of the business that I needed.'

She has since become a certified kitchen and bathroom designer and is at Hannah Grimes learning how to craft a business plan and a budget, something she didn't think much about before the economy tanked.Hannah Grimes Center offers low rent, workshops and training.

The center also offers the opportunity to interact and collaborate.

The Hannah Grimes formula is working, Kristiansen said.

Revenue for the incubator businesses continues to grow, from 29 percent in 2011, 44 percent in 2012 and 297 percent in 2013. The incubator has graduated 68 businesses, Kristiansen said. About 86 percent of those businesses are still in business, she said.
The success rate for businesses that came out of an incubator averages 80 percent after five years. Without incubation only 20 percent of new businesses are still standing after five years, Kristiansen said.

“It really flips the odds,” she said.

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