Business incubation is increasingly becoming a common practice throughout the country. While incubators are continuously popping up in major entrepreneurial hubs, they are also forming in smaller communities, where the cost of retail space is an impediment to developing businesses. By facilitating local startups, incubator spaces generate new ideas that thrive in the entrepreneurial market of West Michigan. Some incubators provide resources to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market.
In Grand Rapids, a new retail incubator, MoDiv, has been established at the intersection of Monroe and Division. Financed through Rockford Construction, and inaugurated at the start of ArtPrize 2011, MoDiv aims to jump-start new retail businesses. Currently, it houses nine tenants who have leased prime retail space in the heart of the city. Michael Mraz, vice president of development at Rockford Construction and part owner of MoDiv, refers to this project as, “[a way] to continue the city’s goal of having and encouraging retail downtown.”
BoKay by Eastern Floral
Within its open floor plan, MoDiv features glass walls that allow clear views into each shop and throughout the space. “Being with the other tenants in an open concept is a community experience,” says Kiersten Schulte, marketing director for Eastern Floral, which opened a new floral boutique, bokay, at MoDiv. “And there has been a positive response from our customers.” She notes that MoDiv addresses a different market, where “merchandise will be designed and selected to meet the needs, and cater to the tastes, of downtown residents, workers, shoppers, and visitors.”
Another tenant, Chai Boutique, sells an eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary clothes at affordable prices. Owner Sarah Ables also paints customers’ vintage furnishings and has worked on pieces for celebrity Rachel Ruiz. She discovered MoDiv during ArtPrize, and fell in love with the concept. “We moved from our previous shop on the northeast side of town to MoDiv within three days of discovering the building,” says her husband, Lenny Ables, “We are very happy here and we can’t wait until the summer when all the festivals begin. People are just going to wander in and see how amazing this space really is.”
“Customers are always pleasantly surprised to see all we have to offer under one roof,” Sarah adds. “It has really become a community within a building. “We originally moved here for more foot traffic. We had no idea we would also gain a family.”
Sofia Bella Couture
Brandice Labadie’s Sofia Bella Couture, a clothing and accessory boutique inspired by the birth of her daughter, Sofia, also calls MoDiv home. The boutique sells clothes and fashionable accessories for the “posh tot.” Labadie made the decision to move into MoDiv because of the affordable and manageable space. With the amenities and short-term leases MoDiv offers, Labadie got the opportunity to make her dreams reality. “Sofia Bella Couture was a brand new venture, and our opening in MoDiv was our debut,” Brandice says proudly.
Other Businesses in MoDiv:
MoDiv also houses the Wolverine Company Store, which sells an array of goods for women, men, and even dogs. The Rockford-based company has ventured out and made the space another retail outlet for its goods.
For those needing a place to bake or cook meals for sale, there’s Kitchen Sinc, an open kitchen that is available for rent to home-based catering or baking companies. Kitchen Sinc also features cooking classes and a retail store and café.
With entrepreneurial ventures like MoDiv giving downtown a new kind of shopping experience, Grand Rapids continues to expand its appeal–not only to customers but to interested entrepreneurs who see the good things that are going on there.
Check out MoDiv online at shopmodiv.com
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