Centralized location provides fuel for business incubator’s growth

When Nicole Filion-Ashline relocated her member-based business center, she hoped a more visible and accessible location would be the key ingredient for continued success.

After converting a two-unit facility off N.C. 150 in Mooresville, The U Center, and its concept, began to grow. Now located on Alcove Road, it offers professional meeting spaces, full-service marketing and professional-development resources, among other services and amenities.

“Despite the growth, the (previous) location made hitting certain (revenue) goals challenging,” said Filion-Ashline. “After 10 months, I decided to seek an investor and a new location. The move has proved to be the one major change we needed to spark the growth we were desiring.”

After a year at the new location, services, resources and business-support concepts have grown organically in the new space, said Filion-Ashline, as clients mingle and create a synergy that’s proving to be an added bonus.

The center doubled its virtual members and office holders in first three months at the new location. Within nine months of being at the new location, the center added five new offices and three were leased before completion.

Filion-Ashline also is working toward adding seven more offices, as well as moving meeting rooms to two larger rooms. The first building was 2,400 square feet. The new building is 6,900 square feet and it’s expected to grow to 9,800 square feet in the coming month, she said.

“Together, the businesses resource each other and share in experiences that only assist each other in making better decisions all around, which helps creates the growth we were aspiring to achieve within the business itself,” said Filion-Ashline.

Before the 44-year Mooresville resident started the center, she served as vice president of Safety Solutions, a company she co-founded with her husband, Trevor, that made racing car safety restraints.

Filion-Ashline, who holds a college degree in fashion design, sold the business to Simpson Performance Co. in late 2010. Also a speaker/education coordinator for the Executive Women of Lake Norman, she has access to varied network of professionals.

“Being an entrepreneur and experiencing all the challenges and successes dependent on decisions one has to make, I wanted to create a go-to place for entrepreneurs to have resources and support to aid in incubating business on new levels,” said Filion-Ashline. “We strive to bring the latest information in a variety of areas to our members, their clients and the community.”

A full parking lot, rooms bustling with members are signs the concept continues to grow, she said. A diversified customer base also attracts sponsors and advertisers.

“We love seeing and hearing the excitement in our members’ exchanges and hearing success stories of their latest client acquisitions,” said Filion-Ashline.

The current larger location has five offices, three of which are rented. More services also are expected as needs arise.

Cristy Carroll, 57, does human relations consulting with small companies through her Davidson-based company, Wise HR Partnerships. She’s also an executive coach who works with business owners to solve business problems.

Carroll met Filion-Ashline at the center’s ribbon-cutting event two years ago. Working from home at the time, she was intrigued by the center’s offerings.

“I started at The U Center when they were still at the location on highway 150,” said Carroll. “It was a good distance, but I just enjoyed the environment.”

Carroll started renting space as-needed but quickly became a full-time client.

“Now, as the center has grown and the offices are filling up, this place is hopping,” said Carroll. “We are all here in this space, enjoying what we’re doing, learning from each other and supporting each other. The office space if beautiful and the relationships I’m building are awesome.”

The aesthetics of the space and connecting with like-minded people have helped the center and its concept grow, said Carroll.

“Having a quick conversation with an expert in their field can be, as they say, ‘priceless,’ ” she said. “I have been on the receiving end of those conversations, as well as the giving side. If you still have doubts about the economy being on the upswing, spend a day or so at the U Center.”

Jim Denny, 56, lives in Sherrills Ford. A 30-year veteran in the “big box home-improvement sector,” he runs JP Marketing and Consulting, which provides sales and marketing solutions for manufacturers.

“The U Center makes sense for my business as it is located across the freeway from one of the largest home-improvement companies in the world,” said Denny. “My clients also want to know they are working with a professional agency and The U Center projects that image.”

The U Center’s location, building design and various sizes of meeting rooms have contributed to recent growth, said Denny.

“In some cases, we have had products that are large in nature or that require set up,” he said. “We have used The U Center as a showroom for these products. We invite the retailer and the manufacturer to view the products and hold the meetings at The U Center. Being right across the freeway saves time for the retailer and enables us to have productive meetings.”