A new incubator program in downtown Baltimore is aiming to give more opportunities to members of the city’s small business community.
The Light of Baltimore Incubator was launched as part of a partnership between national law firm Baker Donelson, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Baltimore Program.
Baker Donelson, located in the Transamerica tower downtown, permitted their attorneys to permanently move to remote work amid the pandemic, leaving a number of vacant office spaces in the 40-story skyscraper building. The law firm sought a way to utilize the space while simultaneously providing transformative opportunities to Baltimore’s small businesses,
Alicia Wilson, vice president of the Office of Economic Development and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University, and Baker Donelson Managing Shareholder Jennifer Curry, who were law school classmates, collaborated to launch The Light of Baltimore Incubator program.
Baker Donelson donated their entire 23rd floor to the initiative, which is equipped with 30 private offices with a $300,000 total value.
Businesses in the incubator program consist of a variety of industries, including production, events, construction, legal, adoption consulting, workforce development, and more.
For Light of Baltimore incubator participant Brendan McCluskey, founder and president of Trident Builders, this opportunity came at a perfect timing.
“I was elated when I found out, as we were actually in the market for new office space,” McCluskey said. “I had a copy of a lease in my hand when I got the email, true story.”
“Having an office to support our team’s lofty ideas really helps elevate our game,” he added “It will also allow a diverse group of entrepreneurs to collaborate and even cross-pollinate ideas and business ideas.”
In addition to physical office space, the entrepreneurs will have access to conference rooms, a training center, Wi-Fi, 24-hour access to the building, and opportunities to get involved in the firm’s Women’s Initiative program and activities for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Participants will also receive mentorship, and education sessions on several areas of law including employment, technology, cybersecurity, venture capital, contracts, and more.
Business owners are expected to pay a one-time fee to cover the cost of a lock for their private office, but there are no additional or monthly fees associated with the program.
Incubator participant Kiana Eboné Chase-Mercer, who is the CEO and co-founder of Brilliance in Black, said the opportunity to be part of the new incubator is coming at a time when she is looking to grow her business.
“Finding out that we were selected to participate in the program was both exciting and motivating,” Chase-Mercer said. “I had already decided to take the rest of the year to focus solely on what 2023 would look like for Brilliance in Black as we begin to shift and grow, so having this opportunity feels like we are on the right track.”
Any small business was welcomed to apply, but 15 of the 30 vacant office spaces are reserved for alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Baltimore Program. A local initiative which helps entrepreneurs by providing access to education, capital and support services.
“Interested applicants applied by submitting a short application, telling us a little bit about their business, about their background, and how the office space can benefit their growth,” said Chanel White, senior program manager of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Baltimore Program.
“The whole goal is to allow them to use the space for a year, sometimes a little more depending on if they still need time to transition,” White said. “In that year they’re able to take advantage of the programs, the opportunities, the lunch and learn sessions and then they should be able to lease or move into their own space. But we want to keep it rolling and allow new businesses to come in each year.”
Individuals can visit Baker Donelson’s website to learn more about this year’s incubator participants and an overview of their businesses.