Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI): Elevating Every Entrepreneur to Thrive in the New-age Business Era

20 Leading Companies to Watch in 2024

Youngstown, Ohio, boasts a rich history of industry and a spirit of ingenuity. Today, a new generation of entrepreneurs is emerging, fueled by a desire to create and a hunger for success. Enter the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), a dynamic hub designed to spark innovative ideas, ignite entrepreneurial journeys, and empower businesses to thrive in the modern landscape. 

The History Behind YBI

In the late 1980s, community leaders initiated the development of an incubator to address the significant employment loss in the Mahoning Valley, a region historically reliant on manufacturing, particularly steel mills. Donating a downtown Youngstown facility and an opportunity to join the Edison Technology Incubator Program marked the beginning of this concept. During the 1990s, YBI emphasized the development of technology-based businesses, starting with the software industry. The aim was to encourage entrepreneurship and diversify the economy. Early on, the mission included advancing women, minorities, and veteran entrepreneurs to cultivate a more inclusive business community. 

As manufacturing sectors evolved, the focus expanded to support additive manufacturing and other advanced technologies. Further expansions included advanced materials and manufacturing by 2010. By 2012, YBI became the host site for America Makes, managed by the not-for-profit National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM). Initiatives like the Women in Entrepreneurship program in 2015 and the Minority Business Assistance Center in 2017 highlighted its commitment to diverse entrepreneurship. In 2021, it launched the Youth Entrepreneurship Program to engage local youth in entrepreneurship and STEM.

Helping Businesses Succeed in the Modern Era

YBI offers various services to help businesses succeed in the modern business landscape. The organization is proud to be named an SBA Stage Two winner in the 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition for fostering a national advanced manufacturing ecosystem – in partnership with America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and Youngstown State University. YBI aims to promote SBIR/STTR grants, encourage investment in early-stage manufacturing, raise awareness of advanced manufacturing technologies, and support diversity and inclusion in underserved communities.

Throughout 2023, YBI’s EVOLVE Technology Entrepreneurship program, led by Director Chandler Fiffick, served 51 technology-based startups. Clients raised $25.39 million in capital and generated $9.12 million in revenue. Understanding that tech startups require various resources to succeed, especially in the early stages, YBI’s EVOLVE Technology program fosters a team of Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) who can support startups at any stage. 

Marked as an Opportunity Zone, companies can move to Youngstown and reap the benefits of places like Silicon Valley without the high costs. Hunter Taylor, founder and CEO of Tailored Alloys, develops high-strength, high-temperature alloys for use in biotechnology, nuclear power, and aviation, among other fields. Tailored Alloys includes a line of what Taylor appropriately calls Tailored Rings. These patent-pending rings are made of cobalt chrome, hinged, and 3-D printed in one piece. Taylor lives in Georgia. Still, he has a manufacturing space in downtown Youngstown, employing six people in YBI’s TBB5 building. He corresponds regularly with EVOLVE and tries to get into town about one week a month.

JuggerBot 3D, also in our TBB5 building, started by selling industrial-grade desktop printers and evolved into creating multi-material, medium, and large-format printers for industrial purposes. It now sells a line of industrial-grade 3D printers that offer enhanced print speeds and material possibilities. It is not just early-stage startups that take advantage of YBI’s offerings. Ursa Major Rocket Technologies, based in Colorado, makes rocket propulsion systems, uses its YBI facility to make 3D-printed proprietary copper alloys, and manages in-house additive manufacturing for rapid prototyping, research, and development. “They saw the value of opening a second location here because of the additive manufacturing niche,” said Fiffick.

YBI’s Advanced Manufacturing program assists small and medium-sized manufacturers by providing expertise and capital to integrate advanced manufacturing techniques. VP of Advanced Manufacturing Stephanie Gaffney and her team achieved significant accomplishments in 2023. The team’s efforts led to the adoption of AM technologies by 73 new companies, and it assisted 44 small businesses in submitting successful federal research projects. YBI’s unwavering commitment to empowering small, minority, and economically disadvantaged businesses is evident through its robust Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC) program led by Regional Director Tanisha Wheeler. Through the Ohio Department of Development, YBI hosts the Minority Business Assistance Center, which provides counseling, loans, and certification assistance and helps connect minority-owned businesses to contracting opportunities. The organization’s overarching goal is elevating every entrepreneurial capacity in the community. It redevelops older buildings and creates affordable spaces for businesses to locate and grow, contributing to urban revitalization. The jobs and wealth created by the companies we assist recirculate into the regional economy.

YBI is a one-stop shop for startups and entrepreneurs in Youngstown, Ohio. It offers:

  • Tech startup support: Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) with industry expertise to guide you on product development, fundraising, and more.
  • Minority business support: YBI’s MBAC helps minority-owned businesses with certification, funding, and procurement at all stages.
  • Manufacturing expertise: A team of engineers can help integrate technology into the manufacturing base and use additive manufacturing (3D printing) in your production.
  • Supply Chain Diversity: Program Director Karrington Griffin, focuses on increasing diversity in the supply chain, with an emphasis on minority-owned and women-owned businesses. Through partnerships with anchor institutions, such as hospitals and universities, the program provides small businesses access to procurement opportunities and other resources to help them grow and thrive.

Supporting Diversity of Ideas

YBI’s mission is to support the diversity of ideas, technologies, and leaders who will create opportunities for the future. YBI’s vision is to leverage entrepreneurship, technology, and global resources to impact our communities’ wealth. To stay relevant for the modern generation of youth, YBI adheres to three guiding principles: longevity, innovation, and engagement. The nonprofit leverages its entrepreneurial expertise and resource network to effectively impact the youth and empower them to create a better future. “We want to be a beacon for ingenuity that generates economic opportunities,” remarks Barb Ewing (CEO at YBI). At the helm, she sets strategy, collaborates with program directors, and secures support from partners and the community to achieve YBI’s mission.

As an organization, YBI takes several initiatives to support diversity. For instance, it attracts companies from diverse backgrounds, like Droxi AI from Israel, which launched its innovative healthcare software product here in Youngstown. Additionally, it actively assists companies in becoming certified as women, veterans, and minority-owned businesses, enabling them to access opportunities and resources they might not have otherwise. YBI’s focus on diversity extends to technology and industry, and the organization has helped several local manufacturers adopt Industrial IoT technologies, making them more competitive in today’s market. Additionally, it has worked on projects like the XJet ceramic printer, collaborating with commercial partners to push the boundaries of innovation. 

Inspiring Young Entrepreneurial Mindsets

YBI inspires young people through its Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which provides entrepreneurship education, career exploration, access to technology, and one-on-one counseling initiatives. Director Megan Payich offers practical, hands-on learning opportunities through programs like “Lemonade Day,” “Launchpad Accelerator Program,” and various workshops. The organization equips students with essential business skills and experiences necessary for a future of entrepreneurship and innovation. Additionally, its career exploration offerings prioritize self-discovery, preparation, and initiative before students engage with industry professionals, and its access to technology offerings like “The Xperience” and TBB5 Tours provide engaging, hands-on experiences for students. YBI offers one-on-one counseling sessions with experienced entrepreneurs, business mentors, and subject matter experts to support aspiring students with unique ideas. “The impact YBI aims to achieve with these initiatives is to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for success in the entrepreneurial world, ensure that all students have access to virtual reality and STEM education, and support aspiring students with unique ideas,” remarks Barb. 

In addition to the above, YBI also provides comprehensive mentorship, assistance with business planning, product development, prototyping resources, access to capital through investment funds and loans, pilot manufacturing spaces, and connections to customers, whether corporate partners or the Department of Defense. Barb adds that the organization’s network helps entrepreneurs validate markets and generate revenue.

Ensuring Effectiveness and Efficiency

YBI employs a detailed strategy to gauge the effectiveness of its initiatives, focusing on tangible outcomes like job creation and investment growth among supported startups. In 2023, it was pivotal in enabling technology startups to secure significant funding and generate numerous job opportunities. Beyond quantitative measures, the organization assesses its impact on the broader community, aiming to foster economic development, industry diversification, and a more inclusive business environment. It actively involves the community through educational programs, thereby cultivating future leaders. Additionally, the YBI emphasizes collaboration with various partners to enhance its offerings and amplify its impact.

The Future Vision

Looking ahead – YBI plans to expand its footprint again – In partnership with America Makes, YBI is working to establish an Innovation Hub for Defense and Aerospace, which includes the development of a second manufacturing facility. YBI also finalized documentation for improvements to its existing manufacturing facility, Tech Block Building 5 (TBB5), and launched a new capital campaign to meet the infrastructure needs of its original building. The capital campaign and expansion will accommodate more startups, attract more mature technology-based businesses, and provide an enhanced environment for innovation, collaboration, and workforce development.

Barb envisions YBI continuing to leverage Youngstown’s legacy strengths in materials innovation and digital capabilities to support companies creating value in high-growth sectors like hypersonic aerospace, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, and more. Meanwhile, the organization will continue to focus on generating community wealth through entrepreneurship while developing a diverse workforce pipeline.

Lastly, for aspiring entrepreneurs, Barb advises and encourages: “Take that first step and engage with our team at YBI. We can help validate your idea through market research and customer discovery. Don’t be afraid to iterate – successful entrepreneurship continually adapts based on evidence and feedback. Leverage the mentorship, funding, facilities, and partnership connections we provide to de-risk your path to market. Be bold, but be willing to pivot your approach based on your learning. We’re here as guides on that journey.” 


“At YBI, we strongly believe in the power of diversity to drive innovation and foster a thriving community.”

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