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Incubator redux: The Enterprise Center becomes a national supermodel through a stem-to-stern makeover

by Sally Hayhow

December 1999

Della Clark is in a bit of a hurry, as usual. She has only a few minutes to set up a meeting with me to talk about The Enterprise Center in Philadelphia, over which she presides as president. A few minutes is plenty of time, however, for one of her signature zingers.

"We're no longer in the incubator business," she says.

Experience guarantees there will be a follow-up, and there is: "We've changed our direction. We're no longer in the incubator business because we're in the talent business. We are the CEO generator for the region," Clark adds with a hint of menace, and that's all she'll say for now.

Having the courage to completely change strategy is actually third in a trio of characteristics that have made The Enterprise Center a 1999 NBIA Incubator of the Year Award winner. The other two are setting aggressive goals and continually assessing effectiveness. Those tenets have brought in millions of dollars, attracted prestigious partners, stacked up a pile of "firsts," helped create a business assistance model, put teens to work and begun an urban renewal in West Philadelphia. All this has happened in what many were ready to call a failed incubator.

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Keywords: facility selection/construction/renovation, funding sources/fundraising -- incubator, social entrepreneurship, youth incubation

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