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SEED SPOT facilitates business growth along light rail corridor

SEED SPOT, an up-and-coming innovation resource has plans to transform the run-down building on the corner of 23rd and Washington streets in downtown Phoenix into a facility to link, aid and encourage local entrepreneurs. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)
SEED SPOT, an up-and-coming innovation resource has plans to transform the run-down building on the corner of 23rd and Washington streets in downtown Phoenix into a facility to link, aid and encourage local entrepreneurs. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)

SEED SPOT, a business incubator, plans to bring business to the vacant space along the Washington Street light rail corridor. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)

SEED SPOT, a nonprofit business incubator that will open along the Washington Street light rail corridor this fall, is creating a community of entrepreneurs working to make their business ideas into a reality.

Co-founders Chris Petroff and Courtney Klein Johnson combined their experiences with business to connect entrepreneurs with necessary startup resources.

Johnson, an ASU alumna, said the support she received as a student entrepreneur was instrumental to her success.

During her senior year at ASU, she started a nonprofit organization called New Global Citizens with a $1,000 grant from the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative.

New Global Citizens educates young people about global issues. It has since expanded to 14 states and 33 countries.

“The ability for Chris and me to create an entity that would help other people’s dreams have the same access to resources, networks and funding was a catalyst for me personally,” she said.

As vice president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Petroff has worked with emerging and expanding companies for the past three years.

His travels to cities like San Francisco, Boulder, Colo., and Raleigh, N.C., revealed a pattern in how entrepreneurs pursue their goals.

“I would see the ecosystems they had built and when I would come back I would have a lot of entrepreneurs reach out to me and say they needed the same type of resources,” Petroff said.

SEED SPOT supports entrepreneurs whose ventures make social impacts locally or globally.

Entrepreneurs join SEED SPOT by filling out an online application. They answer questions pertaining to their idea or venture, such as the mission, revenue model, social impact and overall concept of their business. The application will be online  until Aug. 30.

Petroff said entrepreneurs can apply to SEED SPOT at any stage of the development of their idea.

A committee will select 30 to 40 ventures as finalists, 20 of which will be accepted into the program on Sept. 15.

Selected entrepreneurs participate in an eight-month program consisting of 18 modules that teach them how to form a business plan, write a mission statement and take a product to the market. They are connected to mentors and resources during each module.

“During those eight months, we surround them with the best mentors in the Valley that fit their needs,” Petroff said.

These mentors include lawyers, bankers, developers and designers.

Johnson and Petroff said student entrepreneurs at ASU are welcome to apply to SEED SPOT.

“We have a really close relationship with the University,” Johnson said. “We are working in tandem with ASU.”

Johnson works with Sidnee Peck, entrepreneurial initiatives director at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Peck oversees a certificate program that enables any ASU student to learn more about entrepreneurship. Johnson has been a guest speaker in her classes.

Peck said SEED SPOT echoes the environment ASU has cultivated for student entrepreneurs.

“We take these students at ASU and direct them through all the really important areas of resources and support they need while they are here, but at some point, they have to graduate,” she said.

Peck said students who apply to SEED SPOT should be aware of the competition they will face.

“(Students) have to show that they have put some thought into their idea, have determination and have a little experience,” she said. “There will be students who are ready for it, and there will be some who won’t be ready until they graduate.”

SEED SPOT is located in an older building with many vacant buildings nearby.

“The goal is to form an innovation corridor and entrepreneurial stretch of light rail,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she looks forward to seeing SEED SPOT’s model extend to other cities.

Peck said entrepreneurship education is relatively new, but is helpful for anyone looking to start a business.

“Creating an entire network of those resources … is what makes the chances for success (for entrepreneurs) go much higher above those who are trying to do it on their own,” Peck said.


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