Before Beth Colosimo, Tim Cooley and Monique James came to The Mill, business was conducted in a much different manner.
“People were just kind of hanging out and not really doing much with their companies,” Colosimo said. “They weren’t being pushed, they weren’t really incentivized to grow out of our space because the rent was very reasonable, and they weren’t really viewing us as a place to support them in their business journey.”
When Colosimo was recruited to come work at the Miller Campus, she saw an opportunity.
“We really had to change the paradigm and invite people to move on and spread their wings,” she said. “We ultimately decided we wanted to build and be a little more purposeful and deliberate about why The Mill exists.”
Colosimo now serves as the executive director, while Cooley was brought on as the general manager and James as the operations administrator.
“I would say the average company stays about two years,” Cooley said. “And we give them up to three to five, depending on how they grow through our organization.”
During that time, The Mill is creating success at an incredibly high rate; Cooley estimates that 70% of businesses become successful enough to leave the incubator, and since he started tracking, The Mill has had 60 graduates in three years.
“We’re killing it,” he said with a chuckle.
The team attributes the success at The Mill to the low cost of amenities entrepreneurs enjoy.
“The biggest resource in any business that you miss is cash,” Cooley said. “The cost of consulting services and office space is so low. You’re getting so much value and now you have this extra cash that you can spend someplace else in the business.”
The different packages available at The Mill are:
- $300 to rent an office space
- $200 to rent a large desk
- $50 to have co-working space
These packages all include access to a printer, kitchen and conference rooms, as well as business consulting.
“What you’re really buying is the consulting,” Colosimo said.
“We hold everyone accountable,” James added. “We ask them, ‘Okay, so this week you wanted to do this, or this month you wanted to do this, or the last six months this was your goal: How are you doing with that?’”
The entrepreneurs at The Mill also hold each other accountable.
“Every Monday of every month, ideally, [The Mill entrepreneurs] come in and discuss the goals that they’ve set, what problems they may be having, what successes they’ve had and then collaborate with the group,” James said. “We’ve found that’s really beneficial to a lot of people because there’s a lot of really strong companies in here and some that aren’t so strong yet. [The stronger businesses] have been in those spots before and so it’s been helpful to have those mentoring groups.”
As businesses continue to hit their marks and grow, Colosimo said she wants to see those entrepreneurs move on to bigger and better things.
“The other thing that we do is we try and grow employees [in the businesses],” she said. “Goldman Sachs requires four employees to get into their program, so we try and get you to go that direction.”
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is an investment program started by the financial giant in 2009 to help small businesses and entrepreneurs “create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital and business support services,” according to its website. The program is available in all 50 states and the United Kingdom.
Salt Lake Community College has partnered with the Goldman Sachs’ program, which has helped “participants gain practical skills in topics such as negotiation, marketing and employee management.”
To become part of the program, entrepreneurs must be owner or co-owner of a business, earn $150,000 in annual revenue, have been in business for two years and have the equivalent of four full-time employees.
“If we could get every client into Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, that’s great,” Colosimo said.
The goal of continuing to advance the businesses beyond The Mill’s space and further is what Cooley calls “a growth mindset.”
Entrepreneurs and small businesses interested in joining The Mill have to meet few criteria.
“A dollar in revenue, you have to be under half a million in sales,” Cooley said. “And you can’t be certain business types.”
Businesses not allowed at The Mill are franchises and sales representatives for outside companies.
“We just felt like that wasn’t a good fit for us,” Cooley said.
One last requirement is you must make The Mill your base of operations. You’re allowed to have a home office, Colosimo said, but your presence at The Mill is vital.
“Part of your being here is that collaboration with other entrepreneurs. A lot of people end up hiring each other, and so that’s really what starts to build the community rapport and then you get money changing hands.”
Moving forward, the team at The Mill sees growth.
“My goal is to expand and potentially take up space somewhere on the Taylorsville campus and have a Mill II,” Cooley said. “Have a student-led incubator modeled after the programs and the structure that we have here at The Mill and really integrate more of the student entrepreneurs.”
“I’m in discussions with higher administration to try to put that into long-term planning and cave out a space where students really take ownership of a Mill under the facilitation of our staff.”