Here at SourceLink we make the time to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments before we get completely wrapped up into the New Year. For us, it’s a chance to reflect on what our network has accomplished as we’ve helped communities across the nation (50+!) build better and stronger entrepreneurial infrastructures. And it’s a time to refocus on how we can continue to bring better R&D to entrepreneurial communities and make entrepreneurship easier for the doers, dreamers, makers and risk-takers who solve problems, create jobs and improve human welfare.
(Because, yes, entrepreneurship matters.)
Our affiliate partners were busy connecting entrepreneurs to the resources they need to grow and start their businesses all over the country. From Puerto Rico to Loudoun County, champions of entrepreneurship were making waves and setting milestones.
Here’s just a small sampling of what we’ve helped our communities:
- create an intentional infrastructure for entrepreneurs
- unleash entrepreneurship to improve human welfare
- measure and report on the impact of entrepreneurship
- demonstrate the impact of entrepreneurs to a local economy
- celebrate and educate doers, dreams and makers
- build sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems
In Puerto Rico
For Colmena66, our SourceLink community in Puerto Rico, entrepreneurship is proving to be a path to restoration after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
“Without a doubt, Puerto Rico faced one of its toughest years in recent history. Nevertheless, we are convinced that it’s not about what’s happened, it’s about what’s next. . . . Entrepreneurs shape and share them with the world as they create new realities. And we, the community that supports them, create entrepreneurship.” — Denisse Rodríguez Colón
Colmena66 celebrated its first year as a SourceLink community by doubling down on their commitment to entrepreneurship. After Hurricane María, they tapped SourceLink consulting and tools to create a directory of online shops and freelancers; launch an island-wide census of damages and needs and connect entrepreneurs to needed resources; and report on the progress of Colmena66 and the power of entrepreneurship in their first Impact Report.
In Kansas City
In the middle of the country, equidistant from both coasts (and those cities that are traditionally deemed as the “entrepreneurial hotspots”), Kansas City reported on its progress to become America’s most entrepreneurial city in KCSourceLink’s fourth We Create KC report.
It’s a bold and audacious goal to be sure, but the resulting mission and focus has helped KCSourceLink and its network of 250+ Resource Partners build new collaborations to fill gaps in entrepreneurial services and increase capital pools by 290 percent (to nearly $1 billion in capital available to early-stage entrepreneurs).
The report itself highlights success stories of local entrepreneurs and benchmarks the community’s progress on its goals to build awareness of middle-of-the-map entrepreneurship, connect more entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time, improve access to capital, build startups and talent and accelerate innovations to commercialization. This past year, the report was recognized by the International Economic Development Corporation with a gold award.
The key to scaling entrepreneurship in any community or even across the state depends on getting entrepreneurs they help they need, when they need it. Using Resource Navigator, NetWork Kansas has totaled 50,000 referrals that have connected Kansas entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time.
Today, NetWork Kansas’ 500+ partner network is so strong that Kansas entrepreneurs can easily access the resources from partners located in their home community or region. In rural areas of the state, NetWork Kansas has helped to create an active rural entrepreneurial culture and helped establish committed communities of support for the entrepreneurs in these parts of the state.
2017 also marked the launch of NetWork Kansas’ website refresh. The website features streamlined navigation, mobile responsiveness and a modern design all so entrepreneurs can readily access resources most needed for their business success. Additionally, the website provides The Resource Navigator® smart database, a comprehensive calendar of business events and a blogging platform to champion entrepreneurial journeys and inspire others to pursue their startup passions.
In Loudoun County, Virginia
The Loudoun (VA) Department of Economic Development and its partners celebrated their Sixth Annual Loudoun Small Business Week, May 15–21, 2017. By front-loading the week with skill-focused events, holding sessions during business-friendly hours and focusing on the area’s growing industries, Loudoun County was able to magnify its reach and impact for local entrepreneurs and business owners. The week included panel discussions, workshops, awards programs, farm tours and a resource and social hour to educate, connect and celebrate the region’s small business community.
We interviewed Vanessa Wagner, Loudoun Economic Development small business and entrepreneurship manager, to discover the beginnings of Loudoun Small Business Week and learn How Loudoun County Rallies Its Community around Entrepreneurship.
The Commons on Champa hosted a successful Denver Startup Week in 2017, seeing an increase in attendance up by 42 percent from the previous year (that’s huge!). It was due to efforts to unite Denver’s entrepreneurial infrastructure by establishing The Commons on Champa, a physical hub and coworking spot for local business owners to utilize, connect and work. Read how The Commons on Champa was started and the impact it has made on Denver’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Housed in the University of Minnesota’s Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, Grow North works with Minnesota’s food and agriculture entrepreneurs to grow and scale their businesses by providing easy access to statewide resources, education and corporate and peer mentorship. Since the January 2017 launch, Grow North has more than 170 providers listed in their Resource Navigator. Read more about how Grow North is cultivating Minnesota’s thriving food hub.
In Colorado Springs
The Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC launched the Resource Navigator system to connect business owners to local resources that offer services they need to start and grow their businesses. The Resource Navigator not only helps entrepreneurs find the right resource at the right time, it also gives administrators the ability to track, measure and report on entrepreneurial requests for the Colorado Springs region. Since the launch they have more than 50 organizations loaded, ready to assist small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
In 2017, the Indy Chamber launched the Indy Resource Navigator database. The Indy Resource Navigator is a dynamic and interactive web directory that organizes Indy’s growing ecosystem of free or low-cost business resources. Since the launch, the Indy Resource Navigator has more than 110 business service organizations networked and listed.
Last year, IASourceLink celebrated its five year anniversary. As a collaboration between the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the University of Norther Iowa Center for Business Growth and Innovation, IASourceLink has been connecting entrepreneurs across Iowa with the resources they need to start and grow a business. Happy anniversary, IASourceLink!
In Baltimore SourceLink’s second year since launching, they have grown the number of organizations highlighted in the Resource Navigator database to more than 100 providers. Now Baltimore SourceLink has added a specialized funding section to their website spotlighting capital and funding options for area entrepreneurs. Business owners can quickly learn about financing fundamentals, crowdfunding, microloans, lending for economic development, project-based funding and venture capital.
Excellent work was done building on shared systems and infrastructure to support entrepreneurs. Living Cities went through a re-brand to City Alive, and important conversations have resulted in several partners beginning to lay the groundwork for data sharing using SourceLink for collective insight and impact. We look forward to seeing how the Molino Project and all of the related initiatives continue to evolve in 2018, especially with the recent additions of two of our close partners to the City Alive leadership table, Josue Olivares and Vanessa Roanhorse (pictured below on the right).
In June 2017, the Kauffman Foundation hosted a two-day entrepreneurship ecosystem building groupthink called The ESHIP Summit. With 420+ ecosystem builders from 48 states and 22 countries, we all came together to share projects, strategies, create the future of entrepreneurial ecosystem building and take the next important steps to make entrepreneurship easier, everywhere, for everyone. Read our favorite insights from the entrepreneur ecosystem and a curation of our aha moments. The best part of the #ESHIPSummit? Being able to work alongside our affiliate partners and create solutions to better the lives of entrepreneurs everywhere.
So what’s happening in 2018?
We are so proud of our affiliates and honored to provide a platform on which they can empower their entrepreneurs and their communities. The bar has been set high. We can only keep moving forward from here, making the world a better, more connected place, community by community.