The vibrant, state-of-the-art Koffman Southern Tier Incubator is a commanding presence on Hawley Street.
The facility’s unique exterior and pristine downtown Binghamton space, however, pales in comparison to the electrifying entrepreneurial ecosystem growing inside the brightly colored walls, where ideas are becoming marketable businesses and products each day.
According to Dan Mori, director of business incubation for Binghamton University and director of the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator (KSTI), the vision for this facility had been years in the making before the KSTI opened its doors just a little more than a year ago.
“We celebrated our first anniversary in May with our annual Startup Summit, which was an opportunity to showcase the companies in our program. Because the reality is, it’s about them – not about us. We’re just a conduit to help these companies grow out and put down strong roots in the community,” Mori said.
Dan Mori and his 6 fellow incubator staff members cover a lot of ground to keep this center of local startups operating and managing the diverse goings-on within.
As director of the KSTI, Mori’s primary focus is mentoring and collaborating with the startup owners to get their companies on a path to success with an actionable business plan.
“The ultimate thing I do is try to bring a sense of entrepreneurship, or a flare of entrepreneurship, to this program in our community. By doing that, I bring my entire body of knowledge from being a successful entrepreneur and growing companies, to people that might not be as far along on the journey as I am,” said Mori.
The Koffman Southern Tier Incubator is home to 35 startup businesses, ranging from unique virtual reality companies, to cutting-edge clean energy businesses, to high-tech video production companies and beyond.
These various companies are categorized based on what ‘phase’ of the incubator’s program they’re in. Phase 1 is focused on generating a realistic business plan from the owner’s idea(s) and Phase 2 begins to implement those plans in order to generate a profit with their products and/or services.
According to Mori, around 30 percent of the Incubator’s startups are Phase 1 companies “building out the right business model,” while “the vast majority” – around 60 percent – fall into Phase 2 of the program.
Phase 3, on the other hand, is meant for those companies that incubator staff are confident will scale to 50 or 100+ employees, requiring a special strategic plan to manage that growth.
Ten percent of the KSTI’s companies fall into this category, including Bandelier, a unique and rapidly-growing Broome-based B2B startup.
Bandelier founder/owner Jeremy Ruch came to the KSTI staff a little less than a year ago with the idea for a company offering outsourced sales and consulting services to business owners who need help selling their products and services more effectively.
“Jeremy came to us and said “I’ve got this dream. I want to grow this company in Binghamton and I’m going to add a lot of jobs. He started with just himself, then added somebody and quickly grew to 11 people. At that point, he was running into space constraints and grew out of his first office here, moving to our biggest space in the facility,” Mori explained.
This locally-born company is committed to staying in Broome and continuing to deliver “great sales results for clients,” and grow their clientbase, as well as staff, with a goal of hiring over 30 people before graduating out of the KSTI, adding jobs to our local economy.
Among the other startups growing is Eduraphin, a thriving company developing and distributing sports nutrition products for high-performance lifestyles, whose owners recently closed a pre-seed round of funding to begin production of their product.
Infiniti Greens, a company producing & selling organically growing microgreens locally and online, also calls the Incubator its home, as well as Enhance VR. This virtual reality company, according to Mori, is going to be a “linchpin for a proposal that could be a defining feature of the Southern Tier.”
MicroBella is yet another notable startup calling the KSTI its home. Owner Katie Cherney, a Binghamton University PhD student, creates and sells pre and probiotic-infused cosmetics to improve her customers’ skin.
“Katie recently placed in the NYS Business Plan Competition and has seen some incredible success. She’s selling her product locally at Tesorina Boutique right now and that’s something we can all be proud of because it’s made in Broome – and she wants to continue making that in Broome,” Mori said.
The KSTI’s work spaces and resources aren’t exclusive to just Binghamton University and SUNY Broome students, however.
Students make up only 10 to 20 percent of the KSTI’s total company owner count. About 20 percent are companies that KSTI staff have recruited from outside the area. The remaining companies are Broome-based entrepreneurs.
“We want to be a hub of innovation within [the Southern Tier] and there’s a lot of really bright, talented, assertive and hungry people here that want to start a business…If we were to be exclusive to students, we would be shutting ourselves out from the community we’re in and would probably be shutting ourselves out from some incredible ideas as well.”
Mori hopes KSTI will expand its role as a hub of entrepreneurship, where anyone in Broome can go to talk about a potential business idea they’re passionate about bringing to life.
“If the KSTI can ultimately be known for being a conduit, resource, or launchpad, for people with an idea that can go onto to make something in Broome then that’s the ideal situation. We encourage anybody to come out and have a business conversation with us to see how we can help. You can be included right alongside all these companies that are growing, and are going to be graduating out, setting up their enterprise and hiring people right here.”
Ultimately, Mori hopes the efforts at KSTI will transform Broome into being known as a great start-up community.
“What we’re making in Broome…are great companies.”
The Koffman Southern Tier Incubator is part of why #Broomeisgood and the #MadeinBroome program.