One pitfall of business journalism, especially in short-staffed newsrooms, is the tendency for the same roster of companies to get the lion’s share of coverage.
These darlings either make a lot of news or are experts at self-promotion, and sometimes biz sections fall into the rut of covering the same handful or two of companies, comprised of local Fortune 500 corporations, large players like health care systems, glitzy sectors like casinos and whatever firms represent the regional specialty, from tourism to agriculture.
Well, the year is young, and if you’re looking to expand your repertoire, perhaps you can find some up-and-coming young firms to liven up your beat. In turn, they’ll lead you to interesting features and profiles of emerging business sectors for your area, new technology, small-business and entrepreneur profiles, stories about regulation and financing concerns, job creation angles and so on.
You can start by locating the business incubators at area universities and economic development units; the National Business Incubator Association has a searchable directory of members as well as other helpful resources. You might also keep an eye on its 2013 conference portal; session topics and speakers for the April meeting aren’t published yet but might help you with story and source ideas when they are. The sponsor list includes some interesting service industries that tie in to business incubation.
Look for specialty incubators, such as Milwaukee’s VETransfer, which helps returning soldiers buck the unemployment trend for veterans, as NPR reports. Others aim for specific sectors; as this recent BusinessWeek article points out, “There’s an incubator for almost every business,” from fashion to technology. Here’s a plan for a specialty food incubator from Wells County, Ind.; a similar venture in North Carolina may provide a commercial kitchen for the use of people with cottage food businesses. Student business incubators can be an interesting source of stories, as well.
This Entrepreneur article, “How to shop for a business incubator,” is informative and something you can use as a template should you do a review of area incubators for would-be business starters in your audience. Ask incubators for their annual reports, and check out any data from your state’s commerce department (or other sanctioning body); here’s a report from the state of Oklahoma, for example — reading it is helpful even if that’s not your state, to gain a better understanding of the metrics of business incubators.
For other small-business ideas, check out this Washington Post roundup, based on a Sageworks analysis, of the most- and least-promising small business ideas for 2013. Interestingly, agriculture, industrial machinery and employment services are in the gainers columns, while death care, dry cleaners and golf courses are lumped in with the losers.