New Beginnings: A Look Inside December’s Quarterly Conversation

SourceLink affiliates gathered virtually in December for our Quarterly Conversation to celebrate entrepreneurship community building and say, “Good-Bye 2020, Hello to New Beginnings.” A record 85 members joined the meeting!

To kick off the festivities, each new affiliate organization introduced their initiative and some began their introduction with their favorite “walk-up” music including, “On Wisconsin,” “Beautiful Wisconsin” and “Have You Ever SEEN the Rain.”

Just this fall, we welcomed nine new SourceLink affiliates, including:

Proud Accomplishments of 2020

In addition, thirteen veteran affiliates each shared an accomplishment they were most proud of in 2020 and several played their favorite walk-up music, too. Sparkyard jumped on the bandwagon playing, “Funkytown” (Ft. Worth’s nickname), ChiBizHub played, “All I Do is Win,” and Colmena66 (Puerto Rico) appropriately played, “I Will Survive.” IASourceLink played a clip from the movie, “Field of Dreams,” asking, “Is this heaven?”

Affiliates have been busy providing assistance to businesses in their communities during these challenging times. IASourceLink celebrated their 8th anniversary and surpassed 370 resource partners. Network Kansas partnered with the Kansas Department of Commerce to disburse relief funds in one week. Inland SoCal SourceLink (CA) raised $288,000 for their service providers and microloan organizations. ChiBizHub experienced over 60% client growth and 30,000 visitors to their COVID recovery website and Sparkyard’s 2020 jobs report identified 25,000 jobs created in Tarrant County by new firms in 2018. Colmena66 held a virtual Boricua Entrepreneurship Fest with more than 4,000 participants and they partnered with the government to create a capacity building webinar series.

Challenges + Dreams + Goals

In four breakout rooms, we asked affiliates to share the biggest challenges for their entrepreneurs and organizations in 2020, their dreams for a perfect world and goals for 2021.

The most prevalent challenge for affiliates in 2020 was the impact of COVID-19 and the need for relief funding for business owners and their own organizations. Affiliates reported struggling with lack of visibility caused by the inability to network and meet in person with business owners and resource partners. Plus, many were concerned with changes in local political environments that caused barriers to funding and resources.

When asked, “What are your dreams? In a perfect world, what would be the one thing you would do to help your entrepreneurs or your ecosystem?” We heard, “make the virus go away,” “provide enough resources, not just money, though money helps,” and “provide hope and inspiration.” We also heard, “make businesses more resilient and more financially literate.”  Although we would like to wave a magic wand and grant these dreams, in reality, all we can do is try to find ways to address some of these challenges this coming year.

The majority of affiliates plan to create marketing programs to increase visibility of their SourceLink networks, so more businesses can find the help they need. Regional and statewide affiliates will engage more mayors and policy makers to communicate the needs of small businesses. Once COVID recedes, affiliates look forward to meeting people at conferences, trade shows, networking events and one-on-one at their businesses.

Affiliates also want to develop more ways to help small business owners pivot to selling online, become more expert with emerging technologies and help obtain critical access to capital. Other affiliates say they will work to increase their resource partner network and rebuild relationships with their current partners. For some, their goal is to work closer with community foundations.

There is a lot of work to be done as our network continues to support owners during the pandemic and with the recovery. If the last year is any indication, our affiliates will inspire hope for their local entrepreneurs and boldly lead their resource networks through 2021.

Quarterly Conversations, an exclusive benefit for affiliate members, take place in March, June, September and December. Each quarter, the agenda includes topics, speakers and discussions suggested by our community of network builders and is an opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with one another.