How ICELab is giving the Western Slope a boost in small business development

August 8, 2017

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There’s no denying Colorado’s entrepreneurial spirit. But outside of the hubs of Denver, Boulder and even Colorado Springs, resources dedicated to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship are few and far between — literally.

The team at Gunnison-based ICELab seeks to change all that by providing a place where innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship (ICE) can thrive.

ICELab launched in March of this year in the newly renovated Escalante Hall on the Western State Colorado University campus. Though still in its infancy, the ICELab is poised to become a new catalyst for economic growth and development throughout Colorado’s Western Slope communities.

The Lab houses a low-cost coworking space, an early-stage startup accelerator, an incubator, a cafe and a multimedia “story” lab, as well as the West Central regional office of the Small Business Development Center. And, it’s all just steps away from the lecture halls and dormitories where a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators are sharpening their minds.

“The beauty of the ICELab is having that community and student interaction,” said ICELab manager Dan Marshall. “In the ICELab coworking space, there are coders, backend developers, backend engineers, systems architects, businesspeople — and the students are able to work alongside and interact with them right here on campus. We’ve designed the room so people literally do bump into each other, and having that space there is a great conversation starter."

ICELab has an open door policy throughout the week. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the downstairs doors are open and students are encouraged to come inside, work on projects, do their homework or simply mingle with the freelancers, entrepreneurs and startups that call the space home.

According to Marshall, the Lab’s accelerator and incubator will also play a critical role in the evolution of the space.

“In this community, we can’t just rely on tourism and agriculture,” Marshall said. “While that’s definitely a big part of the economy here, there’s also an entrepreneurial spirit. We’re providing a platform where we can share ideas, promote innovation and provide support for the startups and entrepreneurs in this region.”

The accelerator’s first cohort will launch on August 14 and will include a group of six early-stage startups from throughout the Western Slope region. Ideas range from an educational web app and fintech software to an industrial kitchen and a gourmet backcountry coffee roaster. The inaugural program will even include a student from Western State who has designed a portable backcountry boot dryer.

Ultimately, the companies and individuals who utilize the ICELab will make the space what it is, Marshall said.  

“Success for us is the success of the people who use our space and go through our programs. Success is measured through the people we provide support for.”

 

Photos via social media.

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