If the best place to incubate a food business is a test kitchen, where would the best place to incubate a retail business be?
Walk into 1776’s new space in Cherry Hill, and you’ll realize the answer: a mall.
“We [serve our consumer product-facing companies] by providing them introductions to capital, mentors that have brought up product companies…but having the mall space gave us the unique opportunity to have retail and for them to be able to sell their products,” said Jennifer Maher, CEO of 1776.
As the largest network of incubation co-working spaces in the country, 1776 provides programs, resources, workspace, and access to a professional network to 2,700 members who want to grow and scale their businesses.
There are 10 locations across the country, and the Cherry Hill Mall location offers something unique: the Founder’s Market, a brick-and-mortar space for 20 of their members to do product testing, get real-time customer feedback, and get the right foot traffic for actual sales.
The co-working space is opening with 10 member companies, and has room to house 100 to 150 companies altogether.
“This is not just limited to consumer product-facing companies. We’re looking at technology companies touching retail in any way, whether that’s point-of-sale, or we have a company here called HootBoard,” Maher said. “They’re a signage company. They display different types of social media, or you can use it as a check in system. Their whole goal is to get their products inside public facing centers. We can do both, by giving them a place to work out of every day and giving them a showroom for their products.”
1776 marks PRIET’s first workspace tenant in any of its 20 malls, and is a symptom of the retail industry’s evolution.
“The mall has evolved from a place that people came and bought tops and bottoms, so to speak,” said Joseph Coradino, CEO of PRIET, which owns Cherry Hill Mall. “This is sort of a next step, because it’s a business incubation that’s incubating retailers who, our expectation is that some of these retailers, will grow and prosper and open up stores in the mall. That’s the ideal expectation, and we believe that will happen.”
Access to 1776’s workspaces and network ranges from $30 for a day pass to $999 for a private office. Not everyone can be a member, though. According to 1776 Chief Strategy Officer Penny Lee, membership is curated—meaning people do get rejected—to create an ecosystem where members feed off each other and fulfill others’ needs.
“[We make] sure we’re hosting social events, happy hours, as well as panels and workshops for the members to get to know each other, so when you’re a shampoo and conditioner company but need some marketing support, you can go down the hall to a marketing agency we have here and get support from them instead of tapping into outside the network,” said Maher.
Retail start-ups interested in membership can sign up for a tour of the space at 1776.vc/1776-cherry-hill-mall/.l