Mary Ann Kristiansen
Executive Director of Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship
Located in the heart of downtown Keene, the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship has been promoting innovation and supporting the local economy for twenty years. In 1997, Mary Ann Kristiansen founded the Hannah Grimes Marketplace as a local products incubator and marketplace. As their website notes, the Hannah Grimes Marketplace was founded to help local small business owners “build sustainable and successful businesses” and still operates independently today with over 300 members. In 2006, Kristiansen developed an entrepreneurial program that evolved out of the Marketplace, which now encompasses incubator space, co-working space, and numerous programs and workshops. In eleven years, the Hannah Grimes Center has become a thriving organization that has enjoyed consistent growth. Just this year, they have added a 3,000 square foot co-working space to their facilities.
Helmed by Kristiansen, the Hannah Grimes Center has just three staff members and operates largely through the support of an abundance of volunteers. In addition to Kristiansen are Shannon Hundley, the Director of Operations, and Kate Hickey, the Program Director. Hannah Grimes Marketplace is managed by Molly Taflas and five part time shopkeepers. Marketplace Kristiansen says that, in 20 years, the one thing that she has found most surprising is “how much people are willing to give of their time and their skill” to the promotion and expansion of local entrepreneurship through the Center.
Taking advantage of these resources is simple. Entrepreneurs can schedule a “triage” meeting or call with Hickey, who will assess needs and connect business with the available resources most applicable to those needs. Beyond abundant co-working space and a local products marketplace, Hannah Grimes offers a plethora of resources, including mentorship programs, frequent workshops, networking opportunities, their annual CONNECT Event that now attracts over 400 local businesses, free one-on-one coaching, monthly roundtables, and a seven week startup lab.
People interested in getting involved can do a number of things to support the Center and its work. Kristiansen suggests that those with skills and experience interested in lending wisdom to entrepreneurs in the beginning stages of their work should reach out to the Center. There are numerous options to mentor budding entrepreneurs as they develop their products and business plans. Probably the easiest way to help is to spread the word and let others know of the valuable resources being offered at the Center. Finally, those who would like to support the Center financially are welcomed and encouraged to do so. More information is available at www.hannahgrimes.com.
Looking ahead, the Hannah Grimes Center is exploring opening a biotech lab incubator to promote the regional expansion of that sector of the ecosystem. Moreover, they are looking to expand their CONNECT Event, reaching more businesses. Ultimately, they will continue “looking for gaps and opportunities” to keep their services relevant to innovators with the goal of remaining “important to the economy” of the Monadnock region.