Getting a business off the ground is hard work. You need a solid business plan, access to capital to invest in infrastructure, and eventually, staff who can help you run your business’ day-to-day. If all small businesses face these hurdles, wouldn’t it make sense for there to be someone who could help you overcome them? In Kingston, that’s what the Cornell Creative Business Center (CCBC) is working to do.
The 20,000 square-foot center on Cornell Street in Midtown was founded by the Arc Mid-Hudson as a way to bring more small businesses to Kingston while fulfilling its mission to support its network of approximately 1,700 people with disabilities in Ulster, Greene, and Putnam counties.
In 2016, the Arc’s business development officer, Gary Bellows, approached Kingston-based Galileo Technology Group about transforming the empty building on Cornell Street into a small business accelerator program. In exchange for employing people with disabilities, businesses would receive below-market rent for space in the center plus infrastructure support like advice on scaling its equipment and technology from Galileo.
“We work with companies that have some existing sales and are ready to graduate and move into a dedicated space,” says Tom Della Torre, Director of Business Development at Galileo Technology Group. “The goal is to help them move forward faster than they might on their own.”
Each business gets a private space in the CCBC outfitted for light manufacturing like large sink stations, ample power, and access to a shared loading dock. They’re also paired up with the Arc’s Supportive Employment Group, which helps the business owner interview and hire a person with disabilities who is a match for its daily tasks.
Once hired, the employee receives training from a job coach who provides skills development throughout their employment with the company. “The Arc does a tremendous job of training and screening, and ensuring both the employee and the business owner have an ongoing support system,” says Della Torre.
Eight of the nine accelerator spaces at CCBC are currently occupied by local businesses, including Edenesque, Current C, Off the Wheat Sweets and Eats, Plant Infused Foods, and Hemp Home Store. Another of CCBC’s occupants, a hot sauce company called Ram’s Valley, just expanded into a retail location in Kingston’s Stockade District.
“The Arc is very proud that business owners have a place to come to grow their business and get to know people with disabilities,” Bellows says. “The ability for individuals to be around a person with a disability and learn to truly see them as a person can sometimes change someone’s life in a small way.”