On the top floor of a white brick building in downtown Midland, two sisters have converted 3,000 square feet of office space into a community of ideas.
Called Incuba8LABS, the newly renovated space is an extension of Incuba8, the business Caryn Shick, 27, founded in 2009 after earning her Master of Business Administration degree from the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management at Northwood University.
Incuba8 is an innovation and design consultancy firm that helps entrepreneurs and businesses get off the ground. Through it, Shick offers personal one-on-one purposeful coaching and workshops to help entrepreneurs launch their ideas.
“I’ve been helping people figure out their ideas and start-up businesses for a while,” Shick says. “While watching people go through and figure out what they need to do in order to launch, I started seeing patterns in what they needed.”
Her clients wanted things like access to experts, the ability to gain immediate feedback, or equipment to use in pursuing their projects and ideas. Shick wanted to bring all of those together into one central hub for community members to use.
So, five years after Incuba8 began, Shick and her sister, Katryn Shick, along with Incuba8’s manager, Erica Simonetti, teamed up for Incuba8LABS, a space where future entrepreneurs, artists, and experts can collaborate and explore ideas.
“This is really the igniting grounds,” Katryn Shick, 24, says. “I’m a firm believer that if everybody did what they were passionate about, the world would be a very different place. A lot of that requires being aware of what gets you excited and what type of problems you want to solve. That is what Incuba8 and Incuba8LABS is all about.”
Katryn Shick is also pursuing her Master of Business Administration degree, and in July of 2013, she quit her full-time position to open Incuba8LABS with her sister.
Incuba8LABS opened with just 1,200 square feet of white walls, large windows, and a gray cement floor. The women added shelves made out of pallets and cement block and tables made of sawhorses and plywood.
All of the furniture and fixtures are meant to be changeable and moveable to accommodate any need the creators and users within the space might imagine.
The next addition to the space was equipment—some purchased, some donated—from people in Caryn Shick’s network of experts.
Incuba8LABS is now made up of areas like a dark lab, for film processing; a light lab, for a photography studio; a silk lab, for screen printing; and a proto lab, for 3-D printing and prototyping. And in late 2013, Incuba8LABS doubled its space to include a sound lab recording studio.
In the future, the Shicks hope to add a metal lab for welding, a wood lab for woodworking, and build a space for ideas to grow.
“The idea is that if you give people access to everything, you encourage people to try different things, and they can develop their skill sets,” Caryn Shick says. “We want to mobilize people with ideas and connect them to resources, knowledge, opportunities, and encouragement. We want to essentially shorten the time it takes to do anything and give them (entrepreneurs) the right environment they need in their journey, because the journeys are all slightly different.”