Alana Range and Edward Wisniewski of Radish Lab were our very first incubator members back in October of 2013. After laying the groundwork they needed to grow their business during their time at the Media Center, they moved into their own office in June of 2014. Now, they’ve got a full-time staff of 10, a client portfolio that ranges from nonprofits to cultural organizations to educational institutions, and a beautiful loft in East Williamsburg to call their own. We sat down and picked their brain about starting out, their journey, and where they are now.
How did you first hear about the Made in NY Media Center by IFP?
Alana: We were at Internet week in the summer of 2013 and Ed picked up a postcard advertising the yet-to-be-completed Media Center. I remember he handed it to me and said, “This is going to be our first office,” and I was pretty dismissive. We’d been working from our apartments for a year and getting any kind of shared space seemed like a gigantic leap. When we went to tour the Media Center for the first time, it was still under construction–we were stepping over cables and I’m pretty sure they made us wear hard hats.
What made you want to choose the Media Center as your first home?
Ed: The idea of being part of a community of creatives was exciting, and the location was exceptional for a design agency. DUMBO is the “it” space for creative in Brooklyn, and lots of smaller agencies are priced out of that neighborhood because of the limited space.
Alana: I also think we started to realize what kind of support a physical space and program could give a small business, which was a game changer.
How did your involvement with the Made in NY Media Center by IFP shape the future of Radish Lab?
Alana: There are a few really tangible ways. First of all, they made us apply to the incubator program with a project. When I was filling out the application, I remember really thinking on that because as an agency all we do is work on projects all day long. I realized that we needed to make the project about Radish Lab’s growth and vision, and this focus on the project of building a business was a bit of a lightbulb moment. We had been looking for more of a concrete lens we could focus our work through, but small businesses don’t always have the luxury of being choosy with who they work with.
Ed: Applying with the project of turning Radish Lab into an agency focused exclusively on social impact projects was ambitious, but with the support of the program, we actually accomplished this in 9 months, instead of the 18 we predicted.
Alana: They also helped us understand some of the key components we were going to need if we were actually going to scale this thing. Like a printer, a conference room, some way to scan things, a lawyer. It sounds trivial, but all of those things make a business run smoother.
Finally, the connections were amazing. I should say friends rather than connections. Being around other entrepreneurs and storytellers working on interesting and exciting projects was inspiring, and also a great resource for support and cheerleading.
How does the Media Center continue to support you today?
Alana: By far, our network of contacts from the program is one of our biggest assets. When we were in the incubator program, it was very much in the Media Center’s interest to have us succeed, and we obviously benefited greatly from that. But now that we’ve left, it’s amazing that we still feel that level of investment and energy around the work we’re doing. The people we met at the Media Center still root for our success, introduce us to new and potential clients, and commiserate about business over beers with us.
Ed: Actually, we were just awarded a fellowship through the Media Center and Startup Germany to go explore the startup scene in Berlin for three months. While we’re there, we’ll focus on building an international network, discovering new approaches to interactive storytelling, and connecting with new collaborators and potential clients. It’s an understatement to say we’re pretty excited.
Do you think that incubators are a smart launching point for small businesses?
Ed: I think they work really well for certain types of business. They help bridge the gap between working out of your apartment and getting an office, they make you put on some real clothes, brush your hair, and think about things a little differently because you’re around other people driving their own projects forward.
What’s Radish Lab up to today?
Alana: Lots! We’re a team of 10 working out of a sunny office in East Williamsburg almost exclusively on social impact projects, which is a huge accomplishment for us. Last week, we launched the AirQKC site, which connects Kansas City residents to their local air quality; the FOSI GRID site, which documents internet safety laws around the world to combat online child sexual exploitation; and a new site for the Global Philanthropy forum, which helps convene philanthropists around important global issues.
What advice do you have for other small businesses just starting out?
Alana: It’s definitely who you know. It’s obviously a little bit about what you know, too, but work your connections hard. Pull in favors people owe you. Use the early days to gather momentum before things get crazy. Also, find some way to make sure you’re okay. Starting a business is exhilarating, exhausting, and scary as hell. Eat well, do some yoga, don’t stay up too late, and every once in awhile pat yourself on the back. Oh, and find a friend who’s a lawyer. You’re probably going to need one of those.