As the Chief Innovation Officer at GFMEDC, I’ve interacted with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the past decade. Every entrepreneur is different, as are their stories, stages and needs, so my assistance and responses to them are never quite a cookie cutter template. However, here are the top five most common resources I often share with the startups.
Our local SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) are often one of the first referrals we make for things like business planning, financial forecasting, market research and more. Our regional North Dakota office is at the NDSU Research & Technology Park. The regional Minnesota office is currently on the campus of Concordia College.
For those getting rolling with their idea and plans, the SBA-supported program SCORE has a local & national network of volunteers that can provide mentorship and advice as entrepreneurs work through their business planning. Plus, you can find additional templates, tools and workshops on their website.
Idea Validation Programs
Many entrepreneurs can find a ton of value in working through ideas to determine how to do them better, or in some cases, to realize the idea may not be worth following through with (better to learn that earlier than later). There have been various options in our region, and some have varied depending on program funding, cohort timelines and capacity of the providers. Currently, ILT Academy has been offering a free (thanks to sponsors) 10-week lean startup program in our region. Innovate ND has been a great program for innovative and scalable startups but is currently not accepting applications as they retool the program and wait for additional state funding. Emerging Prairie has had various niches and timelines with their past startup cohorts. Regardless of what is available at any given time, the point is that it’s always good for entrepreneurs and soon-to-be-entrepreneurs to investigate these types of available programs.
The amounts and types of funding are also different for each entrepreneur. There are too many options and providers to list here, but you can find some information on our website regarding financing programs, private capital or startup-specific. Visiting with an above-mentioned SBDC is also a great way to learn about options, but it also helps you better plan for how much funding you may need for your stage.
Sometimes it is very specific to an entrepreneur’s business, industry or need. And sometimes it is to just connect with other entrepreneurs to get advice, further connections or to commiserate on the struggles of being an entrepreneur. Emerging Prairie has done an excellent job with their events and their startup programming to help foster connections. I always encourage a founder to email Jenny Sheets to get added to her email list for future communications and events (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Again, every entrepreneur is different, and every day is different for an entrepreneur. Knowing where to start and look can be difficult, so please know that you have a community full of people who want to help you succeed. A key step is letting others know what you have going on, and then ultimately that can lead to the question many of us here ask, “What can we do as a community to help you succeed?“ Let me know and/or any of the other program providers listed above in my top five.