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Do You Dream of Becoming a CEO?

How non-profit organizations called incubators give life to new entrepreneurial ventures

Thinking about starting your own business? If so, an incubator might be the best way to help your company get off the ground.

See also: 5 businesses you can start.

The concept is simple: Incubators — usually nonprofits supported by economic-development organizations — help launch businesses by offering shared work space (often at below-market rates), tools, resources and training in the form of classes and seminars.

To join an incubator, prospective tenants typically must submit business plans, and they are expected to graduate in three to five years. By nursing baby businesses through their perilous startup period, supporters of incubators aim to boost local employment and earn back the investment when successful companies take off.

"The concept has grown steadily since the 1980s, when they first became popular," says Linda Knopp, director of policy analysis and research for the National Business Incubation Association.

Today, 1,250 incubators exist nationwide, says Knopp, located in both urban and rural areas. "There's been more interest in business incubators over the past four or five years, as communities and organizations look for ways to spur business growth and create jobs."

inauguration ceo startup new opening ribbon scissors hand red ribbon

Start a new chapter in your professional life. — iStock

Rising role for older entrepreneurs

Fueling that entrepreneurial spirit are people older than 50, says Michael Chodos, associate administrator for entrepreneurial development at the Small Business Administration (SBA). "The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs today is between ages 44 and 59," he says.

According to a March report from the Kauffman Foundation, new businesses led by members of the 55-to-64 age demographic have grown steadily, from 14.3 percent in 1996 to 20.9 percent in 2011. Boomers, observes Chodos, have the income, connections and experience they need to take a risk.

Next: How joining an incubator can put your mind at ease. »

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