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SMALL BUSINESS | THE LEARNING CURVE: MOBILE NURSING
CARE & HOME HEALTH

Intensive Care : Incubator Hatches Fledgling Enterprises

June 25, 1996

When Bea Martin was starting her home-health-care agency, she stumbled upon the Pasadena Enterprise Center. The business incubator, a nonprofit entity supported by the rent that tenants pay and by foundation and corporate support, helped get her company off the ground by offering technical assistance and the camaraderie of fellow entrepreneurs. Martin was interviewed by Karen Kaplan.

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When I started Mobile Nursing Care, I didn't know anything about starting a business. I've been a registered nurse for 30 years, but I didn't know what it would take financially or the technical aspects of getting the proper licenses. Luckily, the good Lord sent me to the Pasadena Enterprise Center, a business incubator right around the corner from where I lived.

The incubator had rooms available for $200 a month, and I figured I could afford that. They asked me to submit a business plan. I didn't have one, but they walked me through the process of creating one. I worked out a budget and made a projection of how much money I would be making within the year.

Putting that application together really whipped me into shape. I had to try to figure out how much market share I'd have, what all my expenses were, what kinds of insurance I'd need and how much I'd be paying for salaries and taxes.

The rent at the incubator is more than for a regular office building because they offer so many more services. They have a shared receptionist, a conference room, a photocopy machine, a fax machine and all kinds of technical-support people to help with taxes and finances. When I had to apply for a loan--which I had never done before--they helped me fill out the application and plan how big of a loan I would need.

The incubator offers you time to learn about a lot of things while you're under its umbrella. You're able to ask a lot of questions and get yourself feeling more secure and confident.

The other thing the incubator is good for is having other minority and women entrepreneurs around in the same building who can serve as role models. It is very encouraging to have people like that to talk to. There's a certain camaraderie that builds up. We may be 10 different types of businesses, but we all have common threads.

I moved into the incubator on March 1, 1993. My first office was about 75 square feet with a desk and a phone. In the next 10 months, I expanded twice to 680 square feet. By June 1994, I was ready to go out on my own, so I rented an office across the street.

Now my business has a private-care and Medicare division, a branch in Los Angeles and a division for teaching certified home health aid classes.

If you're not used to people looking over your shoulder, then an incubator is not the right place for you. They will tell you if they think you ought to be going in a different direction.

I think that even without the help of the incubator, my business would have succeeded, but it would have taken me a lot longer and caused a lot more stress.

On the help available at an incubator . . .

"You're able to ask a lot of questions and get yourself feeling more secure and self-confident."

On why an incubator is not for everybody . . .

"If you're not used to people looking over your shoulder, then an incubator is not the right place for you."

On the difference the incubator made . . .

"I think . . . my business would have succeeded, but it would have taken me a lot longer and caused a lot more stress."

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AT A GLANCE

Company names: Mobile Nursing Care & Home Health; Mobile Nursing Care Agency Extended Care

Owner: Bea Martin

Nature of businesses: Home-health-care agency and training for home health aides

Location: Pasadena

Years founded: 1993, 1994

Number of employees: 36

Annual sales: $1.8 million

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