Vincenzo Landino is the founder of the HUBCAP Wallingford, a one-of-a-kind National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) Certified Business Incubator and coworking space. He is also the Global Community Manager and Business Development Lead for Market Edge, providing end-to-end social solutions for B2B Fortune 500 companies. Vincenzo serves on the board of directors for the Connecticut Federal Credit Union, Wallingford Center Incorporated and HUBCAP Wallingford. This year he was named one of Connecticut Magazine’s “40 Under 40,” as well as New Haven Living Magazine’s Best Blogger in 2013.
We talked with Vincenzo about his adventures in starting a new coworking space, one that has a fresh concept and is outside of the typical citified hot spot.
HUBCAP’s mission is unique and you have a hunch that it’s the only one like it in the country. What does success look like for HUBCAP today? How about five years from now?
At the moment, success is the awareness we are bringing to the community in regards entrepreneurship, startups and small business ownership. We have provided a central space for businesses, civic groups, and coworkers to connect, communicate, and collaborate.
In five years, HUBCAP will be the cornerstone to the Wallingford Public Schools CAPSTONE project, which is a two-semester process in which students pursue independent research on a question or problem of their choice, as well as house coworkers of many disciplines and provide small business incubation to startups that need support. This will change the way businesses interact with their community.
What programs are in place today for entrepreneurs and high school students to help HUBCAP fulfill its mission of incubating local startups while engaging youth in the business world, and expanding Wallingford’s local economy?
With our ties into Wallingford Public Schools, Choate Rosemary Hall, our local Economic Development Commission and Wallingford Center Inc (our local Main Street program), we have an approach unlike any other when it comes to providing support for our students and startups. The CAPSTONE has not taken full effect in Wallingford this year, and in the meantime we have put together a series of one-to-one chats with local entrepreneurs and businesses, including Tariq Farid, CEO and Founder of Edible Arrangements, as well as panel discussions with local entrepreneurs, small business owners and executives.
Can you explain the “CAP” part of HUBCAP, and why it’s so important?
“CAP” came from the convergence of CAPSTONE and capital development. Our goal is to keep those in our schools coming back to Walingford to start businesses, and we want to support them in any way we can, as a community.
The CAPSTONE project provides a feeder system, so to speak, not only into HUBCAP’s programs but also the local economy. What others need to realize is that this conflux of the community, business sector, and local education system is exactly what a municipality needs to generate excitement, bring people closer as a community, and lay down the framework for our legacy.
You have pointed to The Grove as your inspiration for a coworking space. By being in central New Haven, The Grove has a big advantage. Is it a challenge to be outside of a central “hub,” and, if so, how? And, what about the advantages?
It’s always a challenge when you’re bringing a new concept into a small town like Wallingford. The biggest challenge is trying to give people insight in what we are trying to do and how it can help businesses grow rather than stifle the pre-established businesses in town.
Being in Wallingford does have its advantages, however. It’s centrally located in the state, making it easy to get to Hartford, Boston, New Haven, or New York City. Our location is right off Route 5, I-91, and Route 15, which is a great place for small businesses to set up shop. Wallingford is home to some great companies, many of whom are involved to some degree with HUBCAP. We have the ability to tap into some major resources, great entrepreneurs, and subject matter experts.
From the day you walked into Liz Landow’s office at Wallingford Center, Inc. and said you wanted to start something in Wallingford, what has the experience been like for you? What advice can you offer other entrepreneurs who are looking to start a coworking or incubator program?
It has been nothing short of inspiring. To take an idea centered around developing the community, put together an advisory team of educators, business people, and general “do-gooders,” this has been one hell of a ride.
For those looking to start an incubator program, or any business, really, I would suggest surrounding yourself with the right people. Take advantage of any program available in your town/city to start a business, as well as any grants, loans, or credits from the state. If there aren’t programs, find partners that are willing to buy into YOU, not just your idea. And at the end of the day, make sure it is something you are passionate about. For me, watching my community grow and develop as well as bring the entrepreneurial spirit to the next generation is what I get excited about. If you can find something that makes you want to get out of bed every morning, go to sleep thinking about and spend all day working on, then you need to run with it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and learn from those that have made them before you.
Wallingford seemed to have an “all hands on deck” approach to making HUBCAP happen. What advice can you offer to other towns like Wallingford who are considering something like HUBCAP, but can’t seem to get it rolling? What should they do first?
Initially, the core group behind HUBCAP consisted of Joe Mirra, chairman of the Economic Development Commission in Wallingford; Dr. Sal Menzo, Superintendent of Wallingford Public Schools; Liz Landow, Executive Director of WCI; Steve Lazarus of Lazarus & Sargeant, Architects; and me. With this core group, the idea snowballed and our planning team grew to include individuals from the State educational department, executives from large and small local businesses, as well as many other interested citizens. Being 100% privately funded was huge. We fundraised within our local community to the tune of over $100,000 in sponsorship and in-kind donations.
I credit the success that we’ve had to working with individuals and businesses that accepted the collaborative concept for a greater good. Towns need to identify the “idea people,” and bring them together with local businesses. The most important thing when developing a program like this is getting the private businesses and the community working together for one goal. Create a mission statement. Know what that mission is, and stick to it. Even though many may resist the idea at first, you need to keep pushing. It’s the old “Field of Dreams” scenario –“If you build it, they will come.” In the beginning, if it looks like no one wants to jump on board, that’s because many are scared of change. If you persist and show knowledge of your product, people will flock.