Welcome to the new FAME blog, which will chronicle the hopefully long and accomplished history of the Fairfield University Accelerator & Mentoring Enterprise (FAME). This first post is a bit of pre-history of what motivated us to start FAME in the first place.
The Fairfield Store, Borders Books, etc.
While FAME may be in its infancy, with yet another month before we welcome our first client companies, the idea of having a business incubator here in downtown Fairfield has been discussed on and off for decades, at least since the Fairfield Store closed in 1996. For much its 75-year history, the Fairfield Store at 1499 Post Road was the anchor that brought people and business to downtown. Thus many people saw its departure as a major blow to the Fairfield business community. Others, of course, saw it also an opportunity, with many thousands of square feet of prime commercial real estate available to attract new and different businesses to town.
After a major redevelopment effort the Fairfield Store building was subdivided into multiple retail outlets and office space, with Borders Books as the anchor tenant. This then led to a decade of relative prosperity, bringing with it a variety of successful eateries, shops, and other businesses.
When Borders Books closed two years ago, Fairfield University stepped into the void, partnering with Kleban Properties (the property owner) and Follett Higher Education Group (the bookstore operator) to open the Fairfield University Bookstore in the former Borders location. While some people at the time were skeptical of the idea, the partnership has been good for both the town and the university, and everyone involved is proud of how well it has worked out.
The Founding of Fame
With that success behind them, the Town of Fairfield, Kleban Properties, and Fairfield University began in May to discuss how they could further their partnership and bring even more life to an already vibrant downtown. One idea that naturally came about was to start a business incubator that would benefit everyone in downtown Fairfield. The idea was to ‘raise the tide’ and elevate all the (metaphorical) boats.
Thus FAME came into being in June, with each of the three partners making a unique and significant contribution. Fairfield University would provide access to its extensive alumni network and educational resources. Kleban Properties would provide 1300 square feet of state-of-the-art office space and day-to-day operational support. The Town of Fairfield would work with local business leaders and seek out potential grant opportunities.
The weeks and months since have been a blur, with each partner challenged to meet a very ambitious goal of starting up the enterprise before the end of Summer. Design and construction of the office space started almost immediately, after a frenzied survey of successful incubators and coworking spaces. Meanwhile, we collaborated on a variety of business decisions on everything from branding to funding models to the composition and role of FAME’s advisory board.
Today marks one month until we expect to officially open our doors, and there is still so much left to do. It seems that every day we hear from someone else who wants to get involved. Each one helps us build our team but also makes us think a little harder about what we want to do next. There are just so many good ideas that we can’t follow through on even a tiny fraction of them all.
Come to think of it, we are just like every other startup, with more than we can possibly do today but we still have to find a way to do it all anyway. And we could not be happier about that!