Starting a business is risky — we’ve all heard the statistics about the rate at which new businesses fail. The fact that most entrepreneurs go at it alone and with limited resources can exacerbate the problem. Rather than bootstrap their business or use trial and error until they get it right, some business owners are instead turning to incubators to help them get their businesses off the ground.

An incubator “helps create and grow young businesses by providing them with necessary support and financial and technical services,” according to Entrepreneur. Often, incubators are sponsored by corporations, universities, or nonprofits.

There are more than 1,000 incubators that support entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to the International Business Innovation Association. And they’re not all created equal. If you have a highly specific idea or work in a specialized field, consider searching for an incubator designed to help businesses like yours.

Generally, when you apply to an incubator you join a “class” of fellow entrepreneurs, and participation gives you access to a network of fellow entrepreneurs as well as mentors, office space, and, potentially, even funding. Not every program is the same, some may offer more than what we discuss, and others may offer less. But in general, a business incubator can provide you with several resources, including:

Cost reduction opportunities

Whether it’s access to office space or discounted supplies, working with an incubator may allow you to reduce costs and focus on other areas of your business.

A professional environment

Incubators often provide office space for you and other incubator participants. Not only can proximity help you collaborate with other entrepreneurs, having a professional space to work from may lend credibility to any meetings you take with potential partners or investors.

A support network

You may be able to consult, collaborate, learn, and grow with fellow entrepreneurs as part of an incubation program. In exchange, you can bring a set of skills and knowledge to that network that will help others. Some incubators even include access to an advisory board and outside networking opportunities.

Buffering and curating

Incubators generally give small businesses a safe space to work through some of the early challenges of running a business (versus learning “on the job” while dealing with competition and other external challenges). This safe space also helps businesses curate the right resources and network to set themselves up for success.

Social capital

We all know networking can go a long way to help you in business, and incubators are similar to a university degree in creating social capital and helping to forge connections.

Incubators can be a great way to help you build your small business, but it’s important to find one that makes sense for you. Research the different types of programs available, including what’s entailed and the benefits they offer.

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