For the past month, a storefront that has sat empty for nearly four years has been an epicenter of art, music and local business.
Hatch, an experimental business incubator, has revitalized and revamped the once vacant location at 1302 Commercial St.
Hatch is the brainchild of Art Sherwood and Nick Hartrich, Hatch’s Visual and Communications Coordinator Dylan Green said.
In creating Hatch, Sherwood and Hartrich were attempting to combine urban development and Western’s entrepreneurship department, Green said.
Hatch is an entity aimed at providing students with experiential learning opportunities as well as to aid economic vitality and revitalize Downtown Bellingham, Sherwood said.
Sherwood, director of Western’s IDEA Institute, and Hartrich, executive director of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, are prominent figures in the change-making movement in Bellingham, Green said.
The IDEA Institute, the main hub for the entrepreneurship minor, aims to give students the tools to make change through innovative approaches such as Hatch, according to the IDEA Institute website.
The new entrepreneurship minor, launched this quarter, aims to teach students how to make change happen and for students of all disciplines to take what they are doing and make it even better, Sherwood said.
The three goals of Hatch are to occupy a space, create experiential learning and find a long-term tenant to occupy the space, Green said.
Hatch’s online application opened up to local businesses and entrepreneurs on Sept. 4. When someone applies to be a “hatchling,” he or she will pay a flexible monthly membership fee, Green said.
“Essentially it’s like starting up your own business without having to invest ten grand into a space and all sorts of planning without really knowing what the outcome is like,” Green said.
The fee helps Hatch to keep their space and allows student consultants to help with marketing or finances, to set up events, web stores and more, Green said.
Students play a huge role at the business incubator. In the third quarter in the entrepreneurship minor, students are required to run Hatch, Green said.
Students get out exactly what they put in to Hatch, Green said.
Green felt frustrated, like many students, doing the same assignments over and over again in standard classes, he said.
Hatch is a unique way to get involved with the community and put what you’re learning in school into action, in a real-life environment, Green said.
Hatch is a résumé-builder that isn’t the “same reiteration of what’s happening in the classroom,” Green said.
“I don’t view this as ‘for class’,” said Lukas Sexton, a Western senior, who views Hatch more like an extracurricular activity. He has learned there is a “real world out there, outside of school.”
During an art walk hosted at Hatch, Sexton explained how he had the opportunity to meet and socialize with an experienced professional within his field and talk about their work, he said.
He would never have had an opportunity to socialize and network like this strictly on campus, Sexton said.
“Hatch is an experiment and we are hoping to find out whether or not it is sustainable by the end of the year,” Sherwood said.
Those involved with the program hope Hatch will help get students off campus instead of staying within their comfort zone, Green said.