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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, July 2, 2012, 7:00 am

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center opens in San Rafael

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    SAN RAFAEL – Two business incubator programs are now working to foster entrepreneurial companies in San Rafael, after “Renaissance Marin,” a project of San Francisco-based Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, opened its doors to clients.

    Renaissance Marin offers a modern workspace to help foster early-stage companies (photo courtesy MCF).

    The center, established with support from the Marin Community Foundation, will focus on fostering and advising early-stage, service-oriented companies, and joins the city’s other incubation program, Dominican University of California’s Venture Greenhouse.

    The center is a fourth such site for the organization, which has helped launch 7,000 businesses since it was first established in 1985, said Sharon Miller, CEO of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. The group also operates several advising centers, providing “virtual” incubation for companies.

    “The mission is really to help people create and set up their business for their own benefit, and the benefit of others,” Ms. Miller said.

    The Marin Community Foundation donated the two-story facility to the effort, also conducting a number of renovations. The foundation has owned the building for 11 years, and converted it from its former role as a drop-in center for youth services.

    Able to host 10 client companies on-site, the facility features amenities that include training and class rooms, cubicle space, conference rooms, a drop-in work space, a computer center and a soon-to-open test kitchen. Office space is also available to partner organizations, including the San Francisco nonprofit micro-lender and business adviser, Working Solutions.

    “It doesn’t look like Marin. It looks like ‘new city’,” a design approach seen in the modern workspaces of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, said Dr. Thomas Peters, president and CEO of the Marin Community Foundation.

    The incubator will primarily focus on fostering small-scale, growth-oriented businesses in the service sector, seeking to reach clients across the socioeconomic spectrum but with particular attention to lower-income entrepreneurs in Marin County. In-house clients can stay for up to three years, at a minimal cost, Ms. Miller said.

    San Rafael’s other incubator program, the Venture Greenhouse, has a focus on early-stage companies with the potential for environmental benefits, with a maximum stay of one year.

    While the two programs differ, Ms. Miller said that they share common benefits for the regional economy, encouraging entrepreneurship in a county not traditionally known for its business focus.

    The foundation has agreed to make the building available to the Renaissance Entrepreneurial Center for three years, with community contributions expected to help support the facility thereafter, Dr. Peters said. The center has also received financial and development support from Robert Ohrenschall, a Marin County businessman.

    Renaissance Marin is currently seeking clients for its programs, at 1115 Third Street in San Rafael. In addition to San Francisco, the organization also operates a facility in East Palo Alto and a number of satellite locations throughout the peninsula region.

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