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Church & State: A Community-First Approach for Entrepreneurs


Contrary to popular belief, incubator Church & State is not a philosophic concept for defining political distance. Church & State is a business platform and network where entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses can collaborate and innovate.

Founded in 2014 in Salt Lake City, this nonprofit lives in a renovated church equipped with everything needed to scale an idea.

As Church & State is getting ready for Challenge Cup Salt Lake City on July 20, its Community and Development Director, Karina Soriano, discusses how the incubator got its start and what she’s most excited to see happen there in the future.

Why did your program get started?

Following the Golden Rule, Thomas Lee and Ron Heffernan launched Church & State in 2014 to promote altruism and selfless serving. Lee and Heffernan bought the 121-year-old Central Christian Church in full, initially believing it to be nothing more than a good investment. Soon, Lee came with a completely philanthropic and altruistic idea, which would help improve the community.

It was the idea that with this building they could provide entrepreneurs and startups the first completely self-sustaining, no-strings-attached incubator.

Church & State POI (3)


How do you think your startup ecosystem affects the local economy and industries?

Unlike neighboring incubators in the Salt Lake Valley, Church & State provides office space, mentorship, and resources coupled with a help-all mentality. By providing a space that gives entrepreneurs access to free networks, free mentorship, free programming, free services and free resources, Church & State affords opportunities for new businesses and entrepreneurs to learn, grow and contribute to their community.

“Our goal is to make a vibrant community of people who want to support entrepreneurs. We don’t want people who only think about what they can take. We want people that are giving. If everyone has that attitude here, people will come together,” says Ron Heffernan, co-owner and founder.

Church&State-12DTA-2015 (1)

What emerging technology are you most excited about potentially having a significant impact in your region?

There are a lot of exciting opportunities in the valley as our tech industry rapidly develops. Top Silicon Valley companies such as Adobe, Electronic Arts and Twitter have flocked to Utah for its lower taxes, flexible regulatory environment, well-educated and multilingual workforce and world-renowned natural amenities.

Coupled with the community-forward mentality of Utahns, we’re most excited to see how tech may support positive social and economic impact. Be it job opportunities or solutions to hunger and homelessness, this shift is something we’re watching closely.

Applications for Challenge Cup Salt Lake City close July 7. Startups can apply through UNION here.