The Post-Pandemic Entrepreneurial Support Organization (ESO): Creating a Model for the Economic Recovery
Posted on July 23, 2020 by bcd
The pandemic and its economic impact will require that your Entrepreneurial Support Organization (ESO) recalibrate. To prepare for the upcoming recovery, your ESO (e.g. accelerator, incubator, coworking space, hub or other type of entrepreneurial support program) must start to plot the path forward. To begin the process, consider the following: Will your ESO’s mission be a fit for the new normal, or will adjustments be required? Your mission may not change; however, now is the appropriate time to discuss and reconsider with your board and stakeholders. Have new needs surfaced among entrepreneurs and small businesses that are not currently served in the community? At the same time, the pandemic will alter the ecosystem. Have ESOs in your region closed their doors, leaving some entrepreneurs without the vital resources that they will need to assist with recovery? Have new opportunities emerged? Should your ESO be a generalist, or have a focus? Will a broad need for assistance exist among entrepreneurs and small businesses that can be best addressed by serving a wider audience (i.e. the “generalist” approach)? Alternatively, diversification of industries can be an effective recovery strategy. Therefore, should your ESO target a particular industry cluster? For ESOs that already have a cluster focus, should the targeted cluster change or a new cluster be added? A cluster focus not only leverages community strengths, but also is an efficient use of limited resources and budgets (which are expected post-pandemic). What is your target market and market segments going forward? The types of members or users that your ESO has been serving may change as we undergo economic recovery. The new normal may reveal new, untapped market segments that need your service offering, and therefore, present opportunities to expand your membership base. Consider the types of entrepreneurs and small businesses that are not being served, including life cycle stages (ideation to development to startup to second stage), clusters and industries, geography (e.g. expanding your reach further into the region, or shrinking your reach, or perhaps focusing on neighborhoods in need), and diversity and inclusion. Think about displaced workers who may choose to pursue a business idea. Also, assess the ongoing needs of small businesses, from restaurants to retail and service, which have faced shutdowns. To the extent possible, consider your target market both short and long term. What are the needs of the newly identified target market segments and members, and what type of service offering will they require? First, the needs of your current members may shift as they move from crisis to recovery mode, and your service offering may change as a result. Then, newly targeted members may have different service needs than your current membership. In addition, the entrepreneurial ecosystem will change, as some ESOs exit the market and others shift their focus and activities either due to budget issues or rethinking their mission and services. Will unmet needs result, creating new opportunities for your ESO to offer new or modified services? Consider not only the content that would be offered, but its delivery. How will virtual delivery impact your ESO in the long term, from one-on-one mentoring to events? Will the number of online educational events increase in order to offer accessibility? If your ESO hosted larger community events such as hackathons and entrepreneurship weeks in the past, will those events be replicated online, or will a completely new approach be required? Beyond the services themselves, your service offering may require the addition of a different ESO model—accelerator, incubator, coworking, makerspace, hub, or other—to best serve the new market segments. At the same time, work with your partners—and perhaps identify new partners—to ensure that your service offering is not redundant, and limited resources and budget are used efficiently. How will your facility operate and serve members in the future? A lot has been written about social distancing in shared work facilities and members’ comfort level with returning to shared space, so I won’t duplicate it here. Think in terms of specialization and community. Specialized facilities that offer wet lab, prototyping, processing and manufacturing will continue to attract members and usage, because they can’t be replicated at home. Community, peer-to-peer connections and a sense of belonging are critical member benefits of accelerators, incubators and coworking, and will eventually attract members back to your facilities, but for now, must be fostered online. With reduced funding and operating budgets, how will you effectively serve new member segments and provide new services? Be opportunistic. Funding opportunities (e.g. CARES Act, foundations) will arise from time to time. Be prepared with new program ideas to be funded. Also, bootstrap your ESO: reduce costs, renegotiate contracts, partner with other ESOs, etc. What’s next? The questions here are designed to begin the process of recalibration. Conducting a market opportunity assessment and then generating a new business model will help your ESO to carve out a critical role in your community’s economic recovery. Contact me for advice on what’s next and the path for your ESO.
Moving Forward: Lessons Learned from Entrepreneurial Support Programs During the Crisis
Posted on May 07, 2020 by bcd
Let’s all stop for a moment and think about what we have learned, so far, as managers of incubators, accelerators and other programs that support entrepreneurs. Over the past week, I’ve been speaking with managers of entrepreneurial support programs (ESPs) across the U.S. about their approaches to meeting the challenges presented by COVID-19 and adapting to serve their members. Here are the key lessons learned that will help all of us to better serve entrepreneurs and small businesses in our communities and move our programs forward successfully: Embrace the value of virtual. Virtual delivery of services may be our only option now, but we have learned that it provides value and creates new opportunities for access and participation. Events and conferences that were once out-of-reach to potential participants due to location and/or travel costs are now accessible through a virtual platform. The information and learnings shared at those events can now reach more entrepreneurs and stakeholders. Even pitch events, which were once big social networking events with lots of energy (and high cost), have moved online. While we still have not figured out how to recreate the social networking aspect successfully, the events themselves are no longer constrained by the number of attendees that can fit in a room or the cost of creating and managing the event. Since costs are now lower, the attendance fee can be reduced to increase accessibility and participation. Out-of-town conferences are also now accessible online. Engaging experts and others from outside of your region in your virtual conferences and meetings has become an option. As a result, participation by entrepreneurs, stakeholders, community members and others have significantly increased. Events that once had 150 attendees can now have 250 or more virtual attendees. Overall, reaching more entrepreneurs, business owners, and stakeholders is enhancing the visibility of your programs. Be a curator for your members. The amount of information about assistance for entrepreneurs and small business during this crisis can be overwhelming, especially for an entrepreneur or small business owner not accustomed to navigating government programs, or just trying to focus on the day-do-day reality of trying to keep their business afloat. As an ESP manager, you can serve as the curator for the information, filtering it for your members and sharing what is most relevant for each of your members. Ramp up the one-on-one coaching of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Now, more than ever, your members need (and want) advice tailored to meet their specific needs, and they need a good listener. Spend more time coaching rather than programming. Increase the number of experienced coaches by reaching out to experienced businesspeople in your community, your board and advisory board members, and your list of contacts. When coaching, focus not only on the member’s immediate needs but also helping them to be resilient and reach the recovery phase. Foster peer-to-peer relationships among your members. Starting a business can be a lonely experience, and even more so during this crisis. ESP managers must continue to help their members to connect with peer entrepreneurs and across the ESP’s ecosystem of contacts. Experiment with and deploy virtual platforms to facilitate peer-to-peer relationships on a regular basis. CEO roundtables, which have always been very popular programs at incubators and accelerators, can become virtual; however, they require active facilitation in a virtual setting. Host virtual happy hours for your members. Keep the size of the group small—between 6 and 10 participants—in order to help to facilitate the dialogue and building of relationships. Create new rules for facility-based ESPs. Incubators and other ESPs that provide wet labs, prototyping equipment and other specialized space and equipment are already making accommodations to allow access for essential research and work. Put the appropriate procedures in place (including scheduling of use to minimize the number of members working in a lab) and communicate them to members; then work with members to ensure that they adhere to the new procedures. Moving forward, facilities with more open floorplans will require reconfiguration of the space before re-opening. Rethink your strategy and program. Use this time to pause and rethink both the strategy for your ESP and its programs. While some of you are still in head-down mode navigating the crisis with your members, others are settling in to the new normal and starting to rethink their focus and strategies. What is your market? Who are your members and what will their needs be? What types of programs and services will address those needs, and what methods will you use to deliver them? Be prepared for the economic recovery.
Clusters: a focused strategy in uncertain times
Posted on April 21, 2020 by bcd
This is different. We’ve seen economic downturns before (the 2009 recession, the dot com bust) and unprecedented events (9-11), but we’re now experiencing something different, a pandemic with an uncertain timeframe and very unclear path. Nevertheless, there will be an economic recovery and we need to start planning for it now. Building upon community and regional strengths through clusters is a sound path forward. Simply put, clusters drive economic development. Cluster strategy and initiatives leverage the strong presence of particular industries within a region or community and then direct activities and resources toward further development of those industries. Cluster initiatives include support and assistance for commercialization of innovations, startup of new businesses and scale-up of growth businesses, in the targeted industry cluster. More specifically, cluster focused accelerators and incubators support those cluster initiatives. So, what is a cluster (for those of you who are unfamiliar)? The U.S. Cluster Mapping Project at Harvard University defines a cluster as “a geographic concentration of companies, organizations, and institutions in a particular field that can be present in a region, nation, or state. Clusters arise because they raise a company’s productivity, which is influenced by local assets and the presence of like firms, institutions, and infrastructure that surround it.” Clusters are self-generating. The concentration of companies in a particular industry draws more companies in that same industry. The prospect of employment and future employment within the industry creates a strong pull for talent to a community. Suppliers reap the benefits of having multiple customers in close geographic proximity. Customers enjoy the relationships with nearby suppliers; they are more likely to see innovations and product adaptations that suit their needs. Capital sources are attracted to a community in which the opportunities for investment are greater. Entrepreneurs launch startups spun out of local businesses as they form new ideas for products and business. With a large number of businesses in close proximity, collaborations become easier. The benefits of collaborations and linkages ripple back into the cluster. All of these cluster components build upon one another and perpetuate the cluster. Therefore, clusters are a good path forward. An important point that I like to emphasize: clusters encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. The presence of a critical mass of businesses in a particular industry, as well as their customers and suppliers, creates pressure to innovate and to stay ahead of competitors. Entrepreneurs are important agents for innovation and the commercialization of innovation. We must be prepared to encourage and support entrepreneurship and small business growth. Developing accelerators and incubators that have a cluster focus is part of a highly effective strategy for supporting a targeted cluster. (See my blog dated August 19, 2019 for information on planning a cluster focused ESP.) What should you do next? Get ready to pivot. If you have not done so already, assess your community to determine your cluster focus. Alternatively, if your cluster is already identified, then develop a strategy for leveraging the cluster to bring economy recovery. Either way, you will need to designate a staff person to lead the cluster effort and engage your key stakeholders in the assessment and planning process. The goal is to develop an actionable cluster strategy and plan for programs that will work towards leveraging your community’s strengths through clusters. Be sure to include programs, such as accelerators and incubators, to encourage and support entrepreneurship and new business formation in the targeted clusters.
Improving cluster performance through entrepreneurial support programs
Posted on August 21, 2019 by bcd
Supporting entrepreneurship, innovation and company formation is critical for improving cluster performance. Establishing entrepreneurial support programs (ESPs) with a specific cluster focus can consistently help to encourage entrepreneurship, launch new businesses and move innovations to market in the targeted cluster. Let’s explore how cluster-focused ESPs work and the steps necessary to create one. The U.S. Cluster Mapping Project at Harvard University defines a cluster as “a geographic concentration of companies, organizations, and institutions in a particular field that can be present in a region, nation, or state. Clusters arise because they raise a company’s productivity, which is influenced by local assets and the presence of like firms, institutions, and infrastructure that surround it.” Clusters also tend to produce innovation and higher than average wages, according to ICMA. Economic developers create cluster initiatives in order to support the growth of a particular cluster, or clusters. Among those initiatives are activities that support entrepreneurship and startup companies. At BCD, we define cluster-focused ESPs as ones that deliberately recruit entrepreneurs and provide service offerings specifically tailored for businesses in the designated cluster. Cluster-focused ESPs are results-driven, aiming to consistently start and grow businesses, commercialize technologies and products, and foster innovation in a targeted cluster. Cluster-focused ESPs often take the form of accelerators or incubators. For example, a clean tech-focused accelerator would only accept entrepreneurs and teams developing clean tech innovations into the cohort, and then incorporate industry expertise into the curriculum, in addition to pairing teams with mentors who have experience in the clean tech industry. A life science-focused incubator would be housed in a facility that included wet and dry lab space in smaller spaces for early stage life science companies, as well as access to expertise on the regulatory process required for getting a product to market and other areas that are specific to companies in a life science cluster. Creating a cluster-focused ESP starts with selecting a cluster, or clusters, to target. Many regions and communities already have cluster studies in-hand that have identified one or several clusters present in the region or community. An ESP cannot target all of the clusters so the right cluster must be identified. Also, not all clusters are well-suited to an ESP model. Pick one that will fit, and the one in which the ESP is most likely to have the most impact on the cluster and generate measurable results. Once you have chosen the targeted cluster, you must develop a clear understanding of the market. What are the needs of entrepreneurs and early-stage companies in the cluster in your region, and how are they currently met or not? What types of organizations, programs and events are serving those needs and how? What is your current and future capacity to serve those needs? The gap between the business needs and the resources available should be the focus of your ESP. With this market assessment in-hand, the next step is identifying the ESP model that best addresses the gap. The options include accelerators, incubators, coworking, makerspaces, and an array of events, plus hybrids of these models. Then, it’s time to get down to the business of planning the different aspects of the ESP. Planning includes defining and developing the mission and goals, selection criteria, marketing and recruitment strategy, specialized facility (if needed), tailored service offering, network of expertise, staffing, funding, and budget. Planning helps to garner community support and avoids costly mistakes in the development process. Before the final step of launching the cluster-focused ESP, funding must be obtained. BCD’s experience with more than 75 cluster-focused programs demonstrates that cluster-focused ESPs have greater funding opportunities than non-focused ESPs. Federal government agencies, foundations and private donors seeking to boost and support innovation and new business development in the cluster can be supportive of cluster-focused ESPs. To learn more about how to strategically develop and deploy a cluster-focused ESP in your community, join me at the InBIA e.Builders Forum on October 3 & 4 in Niagara Falls, NY. I’ll be teaching an interactive, half-day workshop on “Driving the Startup and Growth of Businesses in Targeted Clusters.” https://inbia.org/ebuilders-2019-home/
Second Stage Companies: What’s All the Buzz About?
Posted on July 31, 2019 by bcd
At a recent InBIA conference, I found an overwhelming response to our session on the topic of programming for second stage companies. Why? Second stage companies can have a strong growth trajectory, generating sales and creating new jobs in communities. So, how can we assist second stage companies? Second stage companies are defined as past the startup stage, but not yet mature. The Edward Lowe Foundation reported that, between 2005 and 2015, second stage businesses only represented 17% of all U.S. businesses, but they generated more than 37% of jobs and 35% of sales. Directing economic development efforts at second stage companies can have a tremendous impact on the growth of these companies and the economic benefits to a community. Second stage businesses must expand their market and their teams, and of course, obtain capital to support their growth. They must improve their competitive position, which may mean increasing the number of customers and sales in their current markets in addition to identifying and exploiting new markets. Their teams must expand beyond management and foster leadership within the company. They must add dedicated teams in functional areas such as human resources. In response, common components of second stage programs often assist with market research and advice to support market expansion, leadership guidance and resources, and creating and facilitating peer-to-peer relationships. Business advisors conduct research on market opportunities and advise the CEO about market strategies to leverage these opportunities. Invited speakers participate in forums about leadership skills. Connecting CEOs with other CEOs at second stage companies—often through peer-to-peer roundtables--to help to forge peer relationships. These are just a few examples of the types of support provided. One of the more comprehensive and successful programs is called economic gardening. Designed by Chris Gibbons in Littleton, CO in 1987 in response to a significant reduction in workforce at Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin), economic gardening focused on working with local industry to create jobs, instead of attracting new businesses. Over two decades, Littleton doubled jobs and tripled sales revenue. Economic gardening programs can be found all over the U.S. Mention GrowFL, which is one of the most successful economic gardening programs, created 10,942 new net jobs between 2009 and 2015, and increased state and local tax revenues by more than $81 million. (You can find more success stories at the National Center for Economic Gardening website: economicgardening.org.) Other ways to support second stage companies include graduate programs for companies that have completed business incubation programs, and other programs that address either all or part of the needs described earlier. Graduate programs, which have been in existence for a number of years but are becoming more common, continue the trusted relationships that incubators build with their client companies. They often provide mentoring (which can now be charged at a higher rate due to the success of the businesses), peer-to-peer events, and sometimes facilities if the community lacks the sizes and configurations of space needed at the post-startup stage. While not all communities can afford to gain access to the databases for market research as provided through economic gardening programs, they can still provide valuable advice and research that will benefit second stage companies. Reference librarians in local libraries are a tremendous resource that can be utilized. Supporting second stage companies is the next logical step for communities that are already supporting startups. Retaining the successful startups that have emerged out of incubators and other entrepreneurial support programs should be the goal for every community, and establishing programs that help these companies to increase sales and jobs is a great investment.
Targeting early stage companies with the right entrepreneurial support model (to create and grow successful businesses)
Posted on February 13, 2019 by bcd
By understanding the needs of entrepreneurs and companies at different stages of the company life cycle, ecosystem builders, economic developers, and others seeking to assist with company startup can determine the right entrepreneurial support model (typically, accelerator or incubator) to create and launch. Entrepreneurs undergo different challenges at different stages. To best understand how to assist entrepreneurs and early stage companies, you must identify the specific company life cycle stage to target, and then pinpoint the appropriate model that is aligned with that stage. In practice, I split early stage into two stages of the life cycle: (1) development, and (2) startup. Development may be defined as the stage in which entrepreneurs and company teams conduct proof-of-concept and test market viability through customer discovery. They develop an early business model and may secure limited seed funding. At the end of the development stage, the entrepreneur or team determines can proceed with company startup and operations, aka the startup stage. Here, the entrepreneurial venture emerges, and its first stage of operations is launched. While still pre-revenue at first, the startup continues to conduct research and development on the product in addition to market research; develops a complete business model; expands the team beyond the founders; generates early product sales; and obtains the first funding from outside investors. While the particular activities that occur within each of the two stages will vary, the general milestones remain the same. The needs of entrepreneurs and companies at the development stage can be met through an accelerator. At BCD, we define an accelerator as a fixed-term, cohort-based program—typically, for a targeted vertical--that puts entrepreneurs through a rigorous process of customer validation, business model creation, and initial product development, and culminates in a Demo Day. On the other hand, the needs of companies at the startup stage are best addressed through an incubator. At BCD, we say that an incubator is aimed at accelerating the successful development of entrepreneurial companies and provide an array of business support resources and services that are individualized and milestone-based, over typically an 18 to 24-month period (depending upon the targeted vertical). Companies that complete an incubation program generally have customers, sales, employees (versus founders), and outside funding. For business retention, and to increase the chances for creating successful and profitable businesses, communities should target both stages, development and startup, and therefore have both accelerators and incubators. Together, they help to provide a solid foundation for businesses. Some communities and organizations create hubs that include both accelerators and incubators in a combined site. Alternatively, accelerators and incubators in a particular community or region can choose to partner, or just work together, to form the pipeline from one stage to the next. These relationships can be created among non-profit and for-profit entities. After all, they have a shared goal: building successful and profitable businesses. When conducting a market assessment to determine how to support entrepreneurs, look closely at the needs of entrepreneurs and early stage businesses and the stage of the life cycle in which they operate. Determine if, or how, the stage is currently served. When you find the gap, you’ll know which stage and model to target.
What is the value of a Startup Weekend? (Hint: It’s not starting businesses.)
Posted on August 14, 2018 by bcd
Startup Weekend is a 54-hour weekend event—held in a number of communities across the U.S. and globally—during which groups of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a working prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday evening. Local organizers run the event, with facilitators and mentors from the local community and financial support from local sponsors. It is volunteer-based. Generally, Startup Weekends are a fast way, with minimal time commitment and risk, to immerse oneself into an abbreviated version of how to start a business. But, what is the value of these very popular events? What role do they play in an ecosystem? Despite the name, the goal of a Startup Weekend is not launching new businesses—although it can happen on a small scale. While working in communities across the U.S., I have spoken with economic developers who point to businesses that have started through Startup Weekends in their communities. However, in my experience, business starts are not the real goal or intended outcome of the event. Understanding the purpose of a Startup Weekend is essential for maximizing the impact on your ecosystem. So, what is the role of a Startup Weekend in an ecosystem, and how can your community best leverage this type of event? Startup Weekends are very visible events. Depending upon the size of your community, they can attract 100 or more people to participate. Beyond the participation, these events garner the attention of the community. They raise the visibility of entrepreneurship, create excitement around entrepreneurship, and help to build support for entrepreneurship among stakeholders. Don’t underestimate the value of visibility. Visibility contributes to increased awareness of the value of entrepreneurship in a community. It can help stakeholders to understand why entrepreneurship should be encouraged and supported with programs such as accelerators and incubators. Visibility, and the participation attracted by a Startup Weekend, can contribute to creating or strengthening a community’s culture of entrepreneurship. Startup Weekends can also make entrepreneurship accessible. An interested individual gives up her or his weekend to participate, and not their job (and salary), in order to try out entrepreneurship. She or he can test the waters (to some extent, and decide if starting a business may or may not be the right path for her or him. While just 54-hours in length, Startup Weekends can provide some basic education on business startup. They can serve as an introduction for those who are new to the concepts of entrepreneurship and business startup. Yet, holding a Startup Weekend in your community is not sufficient to spur and support entrepreneurship on an ongoing basis. The momentum generated by one of these events must be cultivated. Hosting regular meetups for entrepreneurs and those interested in entrepreneurship is essential. Meetups bring entrepreneurs together to network, and continue to provide visibility for entrepreneurship. This leads to the last point about the value of Startup Weekends: they are merely one activity that promotes and encourages entrepreneurship in a community. In order to truly encourage and support business startup and growth, a community must provide entrepreneurial support programs (ESPs) to provide the on-going assistance that startups need. The ESPs may include a combination of incubators, accelerators, coworking and maker spaces, depending upon the needs of entrepreneurs in the community. Nevertheless, Startup Weekends can play an important role in a community’s ecosystem by raising the visibility of entrepreneurship, helping to foster a culture of entrepreneurship, and engaging community members who are considering entrepreneurship. They can be an effective part of a larger strategy to develop and grow your ecosystem.
Incubation is the right model for a “Grow Your Own” strategy (Part Two)
Posted on April 10, 2018 by bcd
In the last blog, the importance of a “Grow Your Own” strategy was discussed. But, which entrepreneurial support model is the best one to deploy when pursuing a “Grow Your Own” strategy and aiming to start and retain homegrown businesses? Incubation (in an incubator facility) is the best model (versus accelerators). Basically, a combination of the incubation process and the length of time that a company spends in an incubator help to retain homegrown businesses. The incubation process accelerates the successful development of entrepreneurial companies by providing an array of business support resources and services designed to help a business reach a series of milestones. Companies entering the incubator have already tested the viability of the market, business and product. Then, through the incubation process, they develop a business model and plan, complete product development, secure their first customers, build out their team, and obtain funding to support business growth. The length of time that a business spends in an incubator (facility) ranges from 18 to 24 months for an information technology business to approximately 3 years for a medical device company, to perhaps 4 years for a pharmaceutical business. By the time that a business has completed the milestones and graduated from the incubator, it has generally grown to about 20 to 25 employees. Over its 25-year history of creating successful incubators, BCD has learned that the now, larger business is more likely to stay in the community. 20 to 25 is the critical number because talent is an important asset. The business’ employees are vital to continued company growth. The employees and their families are rooted in the community and do not wish to leave. Spouses have jobs in the community. Children attend local schools. They have friends and built relationships that are local. Reaching that critical number is the key to retaining homegrown businesses in a community, and deploying an incubator to help businesses to reach that critical number is an effective method for making that happen.
The importance of “Grow Your Own” (Part One)
Posted on March 20, 2018 by bcd
Helping community residents to start and build their own businesses—“homegrown businesses”--is an important strategy for communities of any size. But, in smaller communities, it can be the best and only strategy. Adopting an intentional “Grow Your Own” strategy can have an important impact on job creation and the vibrancy of the community. Grow Your Own is an umbrella term for economic development models that use entrepreneurship and small business development as the tool to create economic growth. Grow Your Own focuses on local strengths, small businesses and entrepreneurs in one’s own community--instead of spending resources to attract companies from outside--as a way to foster economic growth. It involves developing support resources for entrepreneurs, innovation, and access to capital and markets. Why is it so important? First, businesses started by local entrepreneurs are often loyal to their communities; they are more likely to choose to grow their businesses in their communities. In the early stages, they are more likely to hire employees from the community. In other words, they are “sticky”. Their stickiness only increases as they add employees, and those employees have spouses employed in the community and children that attend local schools. The businesses are dependent upon the talents of those employees to grow their businesses and, therefore, leaving the community is not an option. Second, entrepreneurs and small businesses create jobs. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses represent 99.7% of all employer firms, and employ half of all private sector employees. Small business is a significant portion of the U.S. economy. The goal is to assist homegrown businesses with growing to a sufficient scale in which they can have a significant economic impact on the community, and then retaining those businesses. In an upcoming blog (Part Two), we’ll discuss the best model for supporting and retaining homegrown businesses in your community.
Can a culture of entrepreneurship be created?
Posted on November 09, 2017 by bcd
Can you really create a culture of entrepreneurship, or must it occur organically? Can it be intentional? Here in Silicon Valley the culture of entrepreneurship permeates just about everything. Entrepreneurs are celebrated. Failure is recognized as part of the process. Almost everyone knows someone who either started a company, or worked in an early stage company. In other communities, the strategy must be more intentional. In my experience working with large and small communities across the U.S., I have witnessed numerous communities that are actively fostering a culture of entrepreneurship. Culture helps to create fertile ground for the startup of new businesses. Here are a few effective strategies to help: Make entrepreneurship visible. Create regular opportunities to increase awareness about entrepreneurship in the community. Many communities around the world celebrate “Entrepreneurship Week” with a series of events hosted by different organizations and institutions in the community that raise awareness about entrepreneurship and introduce the resources available locally for entrepreneurs. Not only do these events attract the participation of individuals who are considering entrepreneurship and those who are starting businesses, but they also attract public attention. Events like Entrepreneurship Week help residents in a community to understand the impact of entrepreneurship and business startup on their communities. Demonstrate entrepreneurship as a career path. Starting with youth (K-12 education), teach basic business principles, create opportunities for kids to create businesses, and instill the philosophy that starting and operating a business is a career path. At colleges and universities, make entrepreneurship courses and programs open to anyone, and provide opportunities to learn practical skills. Don’t limit it to kids. Show adults that entrepreneurship is a career, whether it’s their first career or their second (or third). Teach skills. Not everyone went to business school and many people may not know someone who has started a business…and even if they did, they still didn’t necessarily learn how to start a business that has a solid, actionable model and plan. Offer seminars, training and access to experts to help potential entrepreneurs to learn the necessary skills. Connect. Help entrepreneurs to create networks by connecting them with other entrepreneurs, including those who are new and those who are experienced. Use MeetUps. If there’s a coworking, accelerator or incubator in your community, encourage them to invite the public to attend their networking events. It can be lonely starting a business. Connections matter. Celebrate success. Success doesn’t have to be Google-like success, but launching your first product, generating sales, hiring employees, and gaining market share are all important milestones. Promote entrepreneur successes on social media and at events. And, introduce successful entrepreneurs to your local politicians…after all, you’re going to need their support to build a strong business formation landscape in your community. Remember that creating a culture of entrepreneurship is a long-term strategy, and economic developers CAN have an impact.