By Ed Brennen
Stephanie Guyotte, associate director of the Haverhill Innovation Hub, was happy to see Uncommon Catalyst employees pack up their things and move out of UML’s business incubator and co-working space last December.
Not that she didn’t enjoy having the information technology, consulting and media production company as an iHub Haverhill member. But after four years of steady growth, it was time for Uncommon Catalyst to take on its own office space.
“They’ve graduated, just like our students,” says Guyotte, who doesn’t have to go far to visit the iHub’s most recent alumni — they’re just two floors up in the same Harbor Place building.
“We're not losing them,” she says. “They're still part of our community, and that's really exciting.”
Uncommon Catalyst President Seth Cordes says renting space at the Haverhill iHub was a catalyst for the company’s expansion.
After working for a decade as an IT manager and tech consultant, Cordes founded Uncommon Catalyst with his wife, Milissa, in the basement of their Haverhill home in 2009. While their business grew, he says the lack of daylight — and the potential for clients to question the legitimacy of a company with a residential address — were not ideal. When Cordes saw Harbor Place being constructed along the Merrimack River in the heart of downtown Haverhill, he thought, “I want to be part of that.”
Not only did moving to the iHub allow the company to remain just a 30-minute drive from clients in Boston, but it let Uncommon Catalyst tap into high-speed internet that ran circles around what was available at Cordes’ home.
“We have access to a 10-gigabit symmetric pipe, which means anything we can push up, we can pull down. There's no restrictions,” he says. “To get to a business environment where that’s available as a perk, we could cost-justify our first office almost on the cost of the internet alone, which was fantastic for us.”
Helping emerging businesses in the greater Merrimack Valley flourish is part of the mission of the Haverhill iHub — and the Lowell iHub, which the university opened in 2015 at 110 Canal St. The business incubators provide startups and entrepreneurs with a range of services, including private office and meeting space, business mentoring and a prototype makerspace for research and development of new products.
“Being part of the university is really what sets us apart,” Guyotte says. “We offer an amazing facility for our members at a cost that's affordable for a startup or entrepreneur. And we have the connection to the main campus at UMass Lowell, which provides tremendous opportunity that a business is not going to get anywhere else.”
Cordes appreciated the flexibility of the iHub’s office space as Uncommon Catalyst’s staff grew to more than a dozen people.
“The ability to scale up and scale down with 30 days’ notice was a major benefit,” says Cordes, who also enjoyed taking part in community and networking events hosted by the iHub.
After enjoying a record year in 2022, when the company had a backlog of new client prospects, Cordes knew Uncommon Catalyst had outgrown the iHub. So he signed a multiyear lease for 3,800 square feet of office space on the fifth floor of Harbor Place that includes nine private offices and a conference room with eye-popping views of the city.
“It doesn’t get much better than this in Haverhill,” Cordes says while giving a tour.
Cordes plans to stay connected to the Haverhill iHub through community events and is exploring ways to bring on UML students for internships or co-op positions.
“I’m looking forward to the future and continuing to work with UMass Lowell in a variety of capacities,” says Cordes, who is happy he can do so in the city where his company began.
“There's something special about Haverhill,” he says.