Businesses in the Making: Baylor’s 1846 Incubator Program

by Kelsie Ann Trank | February 10, 2020

As a full-time student, balancing schoolwork, social life and extracurriculars is hard enough. But creating, owning and growing a company adds another level of complexity and adventure to a student’s life.

Baylor’s 1846 Business Incubator has “the goal of helping student entrepreneurs develop feasible, sustainable and profitable businesses,” its website says. The Incubator accepts a select number of businesses to join the program while still in the early stages of development. The Incubator works to teach, mentor and grow the businesses into successful endeavors. 

The 1846 Incubator aims to aid a student’s business regardless of their major. By not limiting the program to only business students, any Baylor student who aspires to launch their own company has the opportunity to apply for the Incubator. 

The application process to be admitted into the program is still being refined, said the director of the 1846 Incubator Gib Reynolds.

While the term “incubator” refers to the program that fosters student’s growth in their business, it also refers to the physical space provided for the students in the program, said Tyler Self, a clinical professor in the Entrepreneurship Department.

The Incubator office, located inside the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, provides students with conference rooms, technology for video chats with mentors, and space to work, meet and collaborate.

The Entrepreneurship Department at Baylor is unique because it has a distinct division rather than a subdivision of the business school. But what makes the department especially unique is that it runs the Incubator program, providing students with all the necessary resources they or their businesses could need. 

The department is staffed with entrepreneurs that have experience with starting or running a business, Reynolds said. Being both a mentor and an experienced entrepreneur, Reynolds provides the students with another resource by being one himself. 

“I’m an entrepreneur, I’m actively running a company, so [the students] get to have a direct connection to someone who’s a practitioner of what they do,” Reynolds said.

In addition, other staff members of the department and mentors provide the students in the Incubator with advice and mentoring.

Many of the mentors are found in the Waco business community or are active alumni with entrepreneurship experience looking to engage with the university and its students.

“Being in the Incubator gives you access to as many resources as we want in terms of the [entrepreneurship] department,”  said junior Jake Stammen. 

Stammen is in the Incubator program with his company, Stammen Enterprise, a resell and marketing business. The biggest resource given to the students in the Incubator is the feedback they receive from entrepreneurship experts, Stammen said. 

Other opportunities for students in the Incubator to further the development of their companies include attending after-class lectures from guest speakers that are entrepreneurial experts, and the option to compete in the Baylor New Venture Competition, a two-day long business pitch competition among college students. 

An internship program is also available through the Entrepreneurship Department for students to explore the idea of running their own company.

Reynolds, as director of the program, is the primary mentor who consistently provides feedback and networking.

“Their goal is to start and grow a company and my goal is to facilitate them in that process,” Reynolds said. 

The Incubator also helps in learning how to balance simultaneously being a full-time student and a business owner. 

The Incubator became individually tailored to the needs of the students and their companies instead of coaching each company through the program the same way. Students receive one-on-one time with mentors rather than participating in generic group workshops. 

Being completely separate from classes and course credit, the Incubator requires students to be self-motivated to improve their company, Reynold said. This makes the program special because the students are willingly working to better their business instead of being forced to do it for class. 

Peter Klein, Chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship, can see the importance that the Waco business and entrepreneur ecosystem has on Baylor and vice versa. 

“We partner with the city because it’s good for Baylor also to have a more vibrant community in Waco, and that’s a spillover benefit of entrepreneurship,” Klein said.

Bittersweet, a Waco company that sells novelty cookies, grew into the business it is now through the Incubator, Reynolds said. Hanna Austin, a Baylor part-time student, and owner of Bittersweet, now runs her business in a storefront in downtown Waco. 

The Incubator program and Entrepreneurship Department at Baylor are fostering young entrepreneurs that have high potential to grow successful businesses.

“Students can learn more about who they are as people, how they want to interface with the business world, whether they’re called to be an entrepreneur now, or maybe in the future,” Reynolds said.