The startup years are the most exciting time for many first-time entrepreneurs and new business owners. But it's also the most critical period of survival of any new venture, with challenges both known and unforeseen.

To help entrepreneurs successfully navigate their startup years, Kimco has launched a business incubator program called the Kimco Entrepreneurs Year Start (KEYS). We're rolling out the program starting in California, a state with a deep tradition of business innovation. In fact, California has experienced some of the greatest growth in entrepreneurship in the nation over past decade.

KEYS provides a jump start to new business owners seeking to open their first retail business, service operation, or restaurant by providing educational resources and assistance with business planning, site selection, permitting, and more.

KEYS participants also receive free rent for a year at one of the 100+ Kimco sites in California available within the program. And the support does not stop after the ribbon is cut and the doors open. Kimco provides new business owners ongoing mentoring and guidance to accelerate their business growth during their startup years.

The KEYS program helps give entrepreneurs a business education as well as access to prominent retail space within Kimco's portfolio. There, they can experiment with fresh ideas, test new strategies, build their innovations, and market their products and services with a storefront.

Most of you know Steve Jobs started Apple out of his garage in Palo Alto, Calif. We hope to find the next Steve Jobs who will reinvent retail concepts, using our stores as their own garages to stimulate innovation, spark the U.S. economy, and help invigorate the American entrepreneurial spirit.

For more details about KEYS and how to apply for the program, see our KEYS webpage and KEYS press release.