When business is good, business owners are not particularly pressed to identify alternative sources of revenue. In difficult times, creative collaboration is not a luxury but a necessity. ["In Tough Times, Interesting Opportunities for Diners", NYTimes, 1/29/10]. The article mentions a few instances of sharing - a local deli becomes a hip once-a-month restaurant run by a budding entrepreneur, a baker lets a cookie maker rent and use his kitchen during slow hours. These are two ways that sharing space allows business owners to reduce costs.
Supporting new businesses is a priority for many of commercial districts. But in many instances, finding space within the commercial district for entreprenuers can be quite challenging. Rents may be too high for untested entreprenuers, or local landlords may only be unwilling to rent to anyone but a credit tenant. The great part about the collaborative approaches mentioned in the NY Times article is that it allows existing businesses to serve as small business incubators by give budding entrepreneurs low-cost ways to test concepts. For example, the once-a-month restaurant in a deli is run by an entrepreneur who also recieves guidance and support from the deli owner on purchasing and menu planning. In the other example, a local cookie maker is able to test her product in a rented kitchen without investing too much capital in the business.
If you have local business owners looking for extra revenue (and who isn't these days?), consider brokering relationships between your business owners and local entrepreneurs looking for space. Find entrepreneurs by reaching out to your local business center, local college or technical school. Educational programs - including culinary schools or business schools - are great places to find entreprenuers. Your efforts could be a win-win for both existing and new businesses.