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  1. How to Spring Clean Your Business

    Spring has long been the season of new beginnings and “out with the old, in with the new.” While many associate spring cleaning with decluttering their homes, you can use this time to spring clean your business as well! Give your business a fresh start this season by giving it a thorough refresh — organize your files, update your digital presence, clear out your inbox, and clean up your physical spaces.

    1. Organize and archive your files.

    Every business has archives of old files – even if they’re digital! Move previous years’ files over to external hard drives to make room on your computer, and establish a regular schedule for exporting your files. For example, you could implement a regular process of moving over old files at the beginning of every year, or at the beginning of each quarter. Ensure that all servers and file systems follow organized, uniform procedures to make important files easy to find and reduce the amount of valuable business time spent searching for the record you need. Organize your files in a way that makes sense for your business, and be sure to use naming conventions that are easy to search for. Just remember to keep your most-used and most regularly accessed files easy to find and update.

    1. Update all digital platforms and assets.

    Maintaining an active online presence is crucial to ensuring that your customers are able to find your business. If the available information about your business is old, outdated, or no longer correct in any way, be sure to update it so your customers have all the information they need! Even doing a quick Google search may bring to light old addresses, phone numbers, or domains that you no longer have access to — you might be shocked to find how outdated some information can be! A few ideas for places to look for outdated information:

    • Find that old Yelp page that still lists your business’s previous address. 
    • Change the logo on your Facebook page if it hasn’t been updated in a while.
    • Use search engines to find any online listings or directories where your business contact information may be outdated.
      • Ensure your website URL is correct on all listings, and that any old domains redirect to your current site.
    • Remove any old documents or information from your website that are no longer relevant to your business or applicable to your customer experience.

    In addition to looking for and updating old information, be sure to maintain a cohesive brand identity across all online platforms by confirming that any brand elements, colors, and fonts used online reflect your current brand standards.

    1. Clear out your inbox!

    Gain some more online storage space by cleaning out your email inbox! Email platforms often include only a limited amount of storage space, which means that as you accumulate more emails, your older, but still important, emails could be deleted without your knowledge. To avoid this, make a folder of any important emails that you often have to refer back to, or download the email as a PDF or Word document and save it within your computer’s file system. Be sure to keep any emails that contain important directions, client or coworker communications that you may have to refer back to later, and other vital information or documentation that you need to be sure is kept safe — and delete the rest. Get rid of old event invites, newsletters, marketing emails from old vendors or other businesses, or any other email that no longer serves a direct purpose or reference for your company. This will clear up a large amount of storage space and allow you to find the most important emails in your inbox faster and easier. If you’re not worried about storage space, or deleting emails isn’t a viable option for your business, be sure to sort your inbox in a way similar to your uniform file system to be sure that you’re easily able to find what you’re looking for. 

    1. Clean up your physical space.

    If your business operates out of a physical location, tidy up your space, especially any client-facing areas. If your business has a physical office, but hasn’t been there since last March, elect someone to visit the space and get it ready for your return (whenever that may be). Be sure to change the calendars from March, dust off any desks or workspaces, and ensure that all COVID-19 sanitizing and social distancing protocols are followed. If you’re working from home, sort through your designated workspace to clear your desk space and your mind – you may be surprised by how much more you’re able to get done with a clean and organized workspace!

    Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be stressful – use it as a time to bring new life to your workspace, both physical and virtual, and create new processes that will allow you and your team to work more efficiently and through less clutter. 

    Are you outgrowing your home office or current workspace? Contact the Union River Center for Innovation today for more information about utilizing a co-working space or renting a private office at our location in Ellsworth.

  2. 5 Ways Business Incubator Programs Can Help Your Startup Grow

    As you develop your new company, there is no doubt that some business resources may be hard to come by. Managing your financial projections and everyday accounting (especially in the pre-revenue stage), creating a business and marketing plan, and hiring your first employees will likely take up the majority of your time as a startup founder. Tasks like booking and setting up a meeting space, finding an office or laboratory space, and planning your business growth can all be either maintained or assisted by a business incubator. Consider these five other ways business incubators can help your startup grow: 

    1. Business Coaching Services

    Business coaching sessions are often included in business incubator memberships to help entrepreneurs and business owners identify their company’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. Having a clear picture of what your business is doing well, as well as what you work on, can also give you a good idea of how competitive your business is in its market, and how it stands apart from its competitors.

    At Union River Center for Innovation, we offer monthly business coaching sessions that are customized to your business’s unique and individual needs, so you can create goals and track and build on your progress. Not only do our business coaching sessions focus on your business progress as a whole, but they are tailored to individual fields of business that you may not have experience in, like human resources, marketing, accounting, and financial analysis. While you are the expert in your field, let our business experts coach you on how you can succeed in all of the facets of business that you may be less familiar with, giving you the opportunity to grow a strong and prepared company.

    2. A Supportive Community of Entrepreneurs

    While the old saying, “you are the company you keep,” may not always be true, it reminds us to surround ourselves with the positive influences we need to keep our businesses running. Often, in business incubator programs you can find just that — positive and experienced entrepreneurial connections that can help you grow and maintain your company!

    Business incubator programs help your business thrive in a supportive, community atmosphere, where you are surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs in similar growth stages. This gives you and your associates the opportunity to brainstorm and converse with other business owners from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and industries. You never know what great ideas they’ll come up with, and you can even do the same for them! The surrounding community of professionals may even have networking connections or business affiliations that they could connect you with. Working in close proximity to a community of businesses helping one another succeed is what makes business incubators stand out among other resources or programs!

    3. Administrative Resources

    Incubator programs often offer additional amenities and administrative resources to let entrepreneurs focus on their business growth goals. These could include reception services, printing and mailing, or others.

    This includes the Union River Center for Innovation! Leave the printing, mailing, and reception duties to us, and spend your valuable time focusing on growing your business. URCI’s business incubator program includes complementary printing, mailing, and reception services, in addition to high-speed internet access and free coffee and tea for all incubator tenants. The ability to focus on tasks like hiring team members, pursuing investors and funding, and researching and developing new products will help your business grow, especially with a small (or one-person) team!

    4. Access to Entrepreneurial Networks & Funding Connections

    Especially while your business is seeking funding or investors, you’ll want to spend time networking and building relationships both locally and regionally to expand your business’s awareness, funding, and connections. Many incubator programs are government funded or owned by private sector business developers or development companies that have access to a multitude of business and funding connections. Some incubators may even have agreements, affiliations, or programs in partnership with funding or business development organizations that can connect your company with grant applications, funding opportunities, or potential investors. Access to the entrepreneurial connections available through the vast networks of incubators and their affiliated organizations could even help you procure business partners or clients! The opportunities for positive business connections are endless.

    5. Facility Amenities & Office Space

    Business incubators are often equipped with everything you need to run your business comfortably from that facility. This includes the vital office and meeting space needed to secure investors, conduct your product development and research, meet with potential clients, and grow your team. In addition to the traditional office spaces available in most incubators, Union River Center for Innovation also offers a coworking space and an outdoor working space on the scenic Union River waterfront. URCI’s community lab space even allows entrepreneurs to continue their research and development in the same facility that they work in, meaning less travel time and less time spent managing locations.

    With so many resources, amenities, and growth programs available to emerging startups and entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to decide which are the best options for your company. If you have a collaborative spirit and a drive to grow your business, an incubator may make sense for your business!

    If your company is interested in joining a business incubator, reach out to Union River Center for Innovation today to learn more about our programs and amenities, like printing/mailing/reception services, office space, coworking space, conference room rentals, business coaching, free seminars, and more.

  3. The Importance of Building Your Company’s Brand (and How To Do It!)

    You’ve started your new company, and you’re ready to get customers through the door. Marketing brings your audience to you – letting them explore your product and service offerings and giving you the opportunity to sell them on how your business can solve their problems, make their lives easier, or even help them reach their goals.

    The first step in marketing your startup or small business is to establish a brand. Branding is the way that you present your company to the exterior world, both visually and conceptually. More than just the shape and color of your logo and the packaging of your products, branding extends into your messaging, your voice, your product offerings, and even how you make your customers feel. Establishing a strong sense of brand awareness among your audience is imperative to ensuring that your company comes to mind when the potential customer realizes that they are in the market for your product or service. 

    What is the first thing you think of when you think of Target? Probably their recognizable logo.

    What comes to mind when you’re asked about Facebook? Likely their signature blue.

    What is most recognizable about KitKats? Their memorable slogan!

    These companies all have strong brands that communicate their product offerings, as well as their values, quickly. Your brand sets you apart from your competition, and establishes your business as reputable, trustworthy, and professional. You’ll want your brand to communicate who you are as a company, while also being a quick symbol for recognition.

    1. Start early.

    When creating a new business, it’s never too early to start building and promoting your brand. Think about what elements your logo should have – what colors make sense for your business? What icons or imagery complement your products or services? What matters most to your customers and other stakeholders? Make sure these elements are reflected in your branding.

    1. Stay consistent.

    As you’re developing your brand, it’s important to create a recognizable look and feel. To do this, make sure that your logo, colors, messaging, and other elements remain consistent throughout your website, packaging, ads, social media presence, stationery, or any other elements that reflect your brand and its distinct look and feel. Using your brand consistently across platforms allows your audience to instantly recognize your brand or product, raising the probability that you are their first thought when they become in-market buyers.

    Your logo should be used wherever possible to connect any of your content to your brand, and should not be altered. Create a list of brand guidelines, which dictate how you’d like your brand to be used, the exact colors used in your logo and in other imagery, sample messages, and more. Your brand guidelines will help your brand assets remain consistent across both print and digital avenues, especially if more than one person is utilizing your brand elements or designing with them in mind. This can even be a running document that is updated often, but should always be updated any time you change your logo, colors, or other brand assets permanently in any way.

    1. Be different, distinct, and recognizable.

    Set yourself apart from your competitors! Try to create and use logos, imagery, and colors that are different than others in your market. Even if you sell the same or similar products, you’ll still want to stand out, especially to stay top of mind for your potential and current customers. Think outside the box – what symbols convey your message or services without showing a direct picture of your product? Consider the industry you’re in, and how you help your customers. With a few brainstorming sessions, you can create a unique brand that is distinct from the rest of the market!

    Establishing a strong and consistent brand will help your business stand out from the competition, remain top of mind for your audience, and can even establish trustworthiness in your products and services. Remember to start thinking about creating your brand as soon as you’re able, remain consistent wherever your brand is used, and create a recognizable brand that can’t get confused with other companies in your industry.

    Need more information about running a startup or small business in Maine? Contact the Union River Center for Innovation today, where we’ll connect you with local business resources like our business incubator program or business affiliate program, coworking spaces, conference room rentals, and more!

  4. 5 Online Tools & Resources to Help You Manage Your Business

    In today’s increasingly virtual world, it’s especially important to be able to manage your business remotely, and to have all the tools necessary to remain competitive and grow. From building and maintaining a professional website to staying in touch with your customers and team members, utilizing online tools is a low-cost and highly effective way to manage your relationships and business operations. Because of this, we’ve put together a list of six online tools and resources that can help you manage your startup or small business operations.

    1. WordPress

    Customers, both existing and potential, often prefer to research a company online before conducting business with them. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that your business’s website is up-to-date and easy to navigate. WordPress is an entirely-online, industry-standard content management system (CMS) for creating and managing websites. WordPress allows you to build and maintain a user-friendly, easy-to-maintain website with a professional look and feel for your company. Many online tutorials exist to help you and your team navigate the system and build a high-quality website.

    However, once the website is built, don’t forget to maintain it! WordPress makes it easy to update content and images on your website to ensure that you always have the most up-to-date information available to your customers and other stakeholders.

    2. Google Analytics

    Once your website is built, you’ll need to track its progress, results, and traffic to determine the website’s performance and identify areas for improvement. Google Analytics is a great tool easily integrated into your website that can track your website’s traffic, traffic sources (how users are finding your website), most-visited pages, user demographics, and much more. You can also use Google Analytics to compare your website’s stats from the current time period against another, giving you valuable comparative metrics that can help you determine areas where you can improve your website’s traffic or performance. 

    3. Slack

    Communication amongst your team members is an integral part of business operations — if your team members aren’t communicating effectively, vital information can be overlooked. If your business often operates remotely, team members are in the office at different times, or you’re changing up how and when team members report to the office during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll need an online internal communication tool. Slack can help your team manage “channels” of communication, which can be based on projects, teams, departments, business functions, or whichever categories make sense for your business. Users can also direct message one another and set up video calls. By using Slack, you can ease the barriers to communication within your organization and make sure your team always stays on the same page.

    4. Online Educational Resources

    Have a question about a program, software, business tactic, or anything else? Find the answer online! Courses and other online educational resources like information guides, blogs, and articles exist all over the Internet with the sole purpose of helping you find the information you need. Check out business publications like Harvard Business Review or Entrepreneur to read articles about leading a business in the current business landscape, find accounting resources on the IRS website, or learn a new business skill with a course on Udemy or an instructional video on YouTube.

    5. Small Business Administration (SBA)

    Many small businesses and startups are familiar with the Small Business Administration (SBA) through their funding assistance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and through other valuable resources they provide. However, many business owners are not aware that many of the SBA’s business resources are also online, where you can receive anything from courses about running a business to resource guides about creating a business plan or funding your company. Enhance your business knowledge and connect with valuable resources on their website!

    As the business world continues to shift more toward digital communication and services, it’s important that you’re able to manage your business, communicate effectively with your clients and your team, and even grow your business online. If you’re interested in learning more about growing your business remotely, consider applying to Union River Center for Innovation’s Business Affiliate program, where you’ll take part in the benefits of our business incubator from a virtual setting. Contact us today to learn more!

  5. 3 Ways to Stay Productive While Working from Home

    The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world works, shops, eats, and spends time with family and friends. We’re spending more time online browsing and shopping, we’re ordering more takeout and delivery to keep our favorite restaurants running, and we’re homeschooling our children even as we work remotely. If you’ve been running your business from your home, the chances are you’ve encountered some distractions and obstacles along the way that challenge your productivity. If this is the case for you, there are a few things you can do that may help boost your productivity and stay on track while working from home.

    1. Limit distractions. 

    As with any work environment, it’s difficult, and maybe even impossible, to completely eliminate all distractions in your home workspace. With the kids home from school, the cat walking all over your laptop, and the dog constantly begging for a walk, it can be difficult to tone out the noise and focus on the task at hand. 

    A good place to start is to simply let household members know that you’ll be working — not just when you receive an important call or have a video meeting. If possible, it may be a good idea to work in a more private area in your home to eliminate distractions as much as possible and create a quiet and peaceful environment for you to get some work done. Of course, this isn’t always possible for everyone. If needed, you could also institute “quiet times” in your home, where you can try to schedule all important calls and meetings within that time frame, with the understanding among your household members being that you’ll need limited distractions during this window of time. 

    2. Stay consistent.

    Being out of your normal work routine and schedule can harm your productivity and throw off your creativity. While working from home, try to keep as much about your daily office routine the same as possible, like keeping 2pm snack breaks or 9am coffee runs part of your daily schedule at home. If you and your employees have pre-scheduled meetings every week or month, be sure to continue these virtually! Remaining consistent will help you stay in “work mode” and separate your home life from your work life. 

    Don’t forget to take breaks! Even though you’re working from home, it’s still important to take a lunch break to recharge your mind to prepare you for the rest of your day. Get takeout or delivery or make your favorite lunch at home, and spend your allotted break time relaxing! If you typically eat lunch in the break room with a regular group of people, try eating lunch together virtually on Google Hangouts or Zoom to keep some of your normal routine a part of your work from home life.

    3. Remain organized.

    When you’re out of your regular work environment with limited supplies, it can be hard to keep up with your previous organization processes. However, it’s important to be sure that you’re maintaining the record-keeping and filing processes that are vital to your business operations. Look into secure online file storage programs, like Google Drive, or create a local drive on your password-protected work computer to store important documents, files, and contracts. If you’d like to continue keeping records on paper, be sure that you have file folders or even specific drawers dedicated to those files, and keep them as secure as you possibly can. If needed and appropriate for your business, you could even add a lock to these drawers to maintain security.

    Apart from securing your files while working from home, make sure you also stay organized with digital calendars, to-do lists, and even project management tools to ensure you’re working as productively as possible. It’s easy to forget to add calls to your calendar, pre-schedule Zoom meetings, or add a quick task to your to-do list. Having these programs up and visible on your computer will remind you to keep a note of it, and will also help you to not forget them if something else more urgent or pressing comes up. Calendars are available natively in many email platforms, like Google and Outlook, and there are multitudes of online to-do list apps available to keep you organized. Find what works best for you and stay consistent!

    Running your business from home can present unusual challenges for startup and small business owners, coupled with the uncertainty that the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic brings to both our nation and our world. It can be difficult to remain as productive as you would in an office environment — however, there are measures you can take to increase your productivity at home, like keeping your schedule consistent, finding a way to make your work area as quiet and private as possible, and keeping your files organized. By developing a work from home strategy that works best for you and your household, you’ll be able to stay as productive and organized as you would in the office!

  6. 3 Ways Utilizing a Coworking and Innovation Space Can Boost Your Productivity

    Have you ever felt like you have so many great ideas for your business, but outside distractions keep getting in the way? Utilizing a coworking space is a great way to combat this problem, with a multitude of resources available to help you get your work done in a quiet, distraction-free environment. With amenities like high-speed internet access and mailing and reception services, the Union River Center for Innovation is here to help your business meet its needs — in a space that works for you! Below are three ways taking advantage of a coworking space can boost your productivity and enhance your creativity:

    1. Focus on Your Work in a Quiet, Distraction-Free Environment

    Innovation spaces give you the opportunity to work in a quiet location that allows you to focus on your work without common workplace distractions like ringing phones, conversation, and visitors. At Union River Center for Innovation, our coworking spaces consist of either private offices, cubicles, or our coworking office suitable for multiple entrepreneurs; offering the right fit for a team of any size. These spaces foster a productive environment to help you focus on what matters most to your business — whether that is making customer calls, answering emails, developing your product, or conducting research. 

    2. Generate New Ideas with the Help of a Collaborative Environment

    The Union River Center for Innovation hosts multiple entrepreneurs through our business incubator program, business affiliate program, and coworking space. As a home to entrepreneurs from a variety of different backgrounds, Union River is a melting pot of creative potential where tenants of our business incubator and affiliate programs can work alongside entrepreneurs utilizing our coworking space to bounce ideas off one another and share their expertise. In addition to simply being a part of an innovative community of entrepreneurs and small business owners, you’ll also be eligible to participate in our brainstorming sessions, where you’ll be able to come up with new ideas with fellow business owners, and even help the other entrepreneurs conceive new ideas. You never know what your fellow entrepreneurs may come up with that could dramatically help you take your business to the next level!

    3. Save Valuable Time with Worry-Free Conference Room Availability

    New business owners often spend a considerable amount of time looking for a professional space to host their important meetings. With conference room usage included at our Innovation Center, you’ll be able to host meetings with potential clients or investors, hold an important job interview, or meet with your team without having to sacrifice your time scheduling meeting spaces. Host your meeting of up to 6 participants without having to worry about the logistics of your business’s meeting space; allowing you more time to focus on your business’s important tasks, like accounting, marketing, or strategy.

    As a small business or startup company owner, productivity is key to the success of your business. Utilizing an innovation and coworking space gives you the freedom to focus on your work without worrying about home or office distractions, generate new ideas with the help of other entrepreneurs at the Center, and host your meetings in the same location. Not only does working in our innovation and coworking space provide you with a distraction-free workspace to enhance your productivity, but as a member, you are also eligible to utilize the many amenities of the Union River Center for Innovation! Conduct research, develop websites, interact with client emails, or monitor your business’s social media feeds with our high-speed internet access. Complete your small printing jobs with our powerful printer, copier, scanner, and fax machine, or focus on your work without having to worry about incoming calls or visitors with our dedicated reception service! During Maine’s warmer months, complete your work against the backdrop of our peaceful outdoor workspace along the shores of the Union River. The possibilities of the work you can accomplish are endless at the Union River Center for Innovation.


    Union River Center for Innovation is proud to offer monthly memberships and daily passes to help you accomplish tasks and conduct business in a space that works for you! To learn more about how our coworking program can help you get the job done, visit our website or contact us today!