Lake Norman & Mooresville

Business incubator opens

In today's economy, entrepreneurs face an uphill battle when it comes to starting a business and surviving.

But living the American dream may become easier in Mooresville, thanks to a new business incubator that resident Nicole Filion-Ashline created.

The U Center, at 119-A Magnolia Park Drive, will offer local entrepreneurs office, auditorium, boardroom and work spaces, said Filion-Ashline.

"The economy is putting a lot of pressure on businesses," she said. "This lowers their expenses, and it also gives synergy and networking capabilities within the U Center."

Filion-Ashline said the member-based business center will serve four specialized types of businesses: career, financial, home-family and mind-body. Although the center has space for 32 businesses, she will open the center to 16 businesses initially.

Filion-Ashline said she will charge members $350 a month, which includes several scheduled hours of private office, boardroom and auditorium time each week.

Nonmembers will be able to rent the space for functions, which Filion-Ashline hopes will increase member businesses' exposure to potential clients.

Each member business will have its own designated page on the center's website, allowing it to market its services as part of a larger business incubator, she said.

Filion-Ashline said she'll select U Center members based on a number of criteria, including expertise in their areas and a desire to work with other businesses there.

"We're going to select businesses that would work well together and yet not take away from each other," she said.

"We're trying to create a growing atmosphere and ultimately bring more revenue to the businesses in the center."

Filion-Ashline, 41, and her husband, Trevor Ashline, have owned the business space for more than a decade. They live near the Pinnacles Shores neighborhood.

In 2010, after they sold their Safety Solutions business - which provided safety restraints for various types of racing - the couple began looking at new ways to use the warehouse space.

"There are lots and lots of home-based businesses," she said.

"These businesses that are looking to take that next step to have a professional meeting space and not have to go to a Starbucks to meet with clients.

"They want to look more professional."

Business incubators are a growing business in the Charlotte metropolitan area.

In Davidson, the Project for Innovation, Energy & Sustainability, a public-private partnership, helps local green entrepreneurs with business growth and development; technical assistance; funding; and marketing.

Light Bulb Coworking in Charlotte dubbed itself the first co-working space in the city, regularly providing host meetups, tweetups, networking events and workshops various group as well as offering everyday office use space.

And earlier this year, The Packard Place opened in Charlotte.

The LEED-certified business incubator promises office space, a video and photo studio, a recording studio, a community café and an assembly hall.

Filion-Ashline said the U Center will meet the needs of entrepreneurs who live in the Lake Norman area who don't want to commute to Charlotte.

"Traveling to Charlotte isn't always enticing," she said.

"Now people who don't want to travel down to the city will have these amenities right in their own community."