SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation – March 2024

SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation Recap 

General Announcements 

Rob Williams, SourceLink Director, started our March 7 SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation, with several announcements.  

  • Building on this topic, we believe our SourceLink affiliate network is among the largest, most diverse groups of people doing entrepreneurship-led ecosystem building work in the USA—by geography, background, beliefs, experience, race, ethnicity and so much more. We would like to learn more about each other and the things we could do to better understand the diversity of our network and use that to improve our community, our platforms and our service delivery. We would sincerely appreciate thoughts on what we could do to better share our unique insights with one another.  
    • Rob presented “IGNITE | Entrepreneurship Storytelling”.  
    • Eric Pedersen, President & COO of NetWork Kansas participated on a panel for “Investing in Rural and Smaller Communities for Sustainable Outcomes”. 
    • Mandi Mitchell, President & CEO of Lafayette Economic Development Authority, (Louisiana Business Hub) was the emcee for the opening session.  
    • An additional shout out to Kristi Pederson with Network Kansas, Rebecca Moudry with Fairfax CORE and Kimberly Sparlin with Oʻahu Business Connector, who also attended.  
  • IEDC’s Economic Recovery Corp (ERC) is bringing transformational change to the Finger Lakes area of New York. SourceLink partner Third Eye Network, LLC was named as a host organization for the ERC project “Advancing Rochester Business Resource Partnerships for Small Business Success”. Dr. Lomax R. Campbell, Third Eye Network CEO & President, said the project will produce greater impact supporting the Rochester diverse small business community. Launched in 2023 through a $30 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), ERC is designed to build capacity in some of the hardest-hit and most economically distressed areas across the United States while cultivating the next generation of economic development leaders.  
Osarumwense Adun, ERC fellow for the Advancing Rochester Business Resource Partnerships for Small Business Success project
  • We highly recommend joining IEDC, InBIA and other ecosystem building organizations as well as attending their conferences and professional development courses. We also recommend you follow the Ecosystem Building Leadership Network (EBLN) Daily Digest 
  • Welcome to Satya Kovvuri and Prathyusha Maddi who recently joined the SourceLink team. Satya will be working exclusively with our WordPress websites and has recently pushed important updates. Prathyusha is expanding our SourceLink Pro capabilities in amazing ways.  

Meet Us at InBIA in San Antonio! 

Krista Markley, SourceLink Business Development Director, and Solomon Lee IV, SourceLink Project Manager, are looking forward to attending the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX April 14-17, 2024. SourceLink will be hosting an exhibit booth and Solomon will be a part of the panel for “Exploring the Emerging Role of AI in Entrepreneurship”. Krista and Solomon would love to meet up with others attending, so contact Krista to get together! 

SourceLink Projects Update 

  • This spring SourceLink will begin our National League of Cities City Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) Program engagements with new 11 new communities. Several of these communities will collaborate with SourceLink Affiliates including NetWork Kansas, MOSourceLink, Evergreen BizLink and ChiBizHub. 
  • Solomon reported that the Southeast Region (New Orleans) of Louisiana Business Hub will launch this spring, making it the fourth of eight regions to launch.  
  • Marlene Jantos, Marketing Director of Louisiana Economic Development, presented a brand new marketing video for Louisiana Business Hub. In addition, they have created ‘explainer’ videos for all their small business programs. They promote their videos on their website and use shorter versions of their videos in all social media. They use both paid and boost opportunities to promote the videos and are seeing good results on their website. In the past six months, Marlene reported the top key words used in searches are “start up a business”, “small business help”, “help for starting a business”, “start your business”, and “help for starting a business in Louisiana”. 


SourceLink Marketing/Communications  

SourceLink would like to showcase affiliate events celebrating connectivity in your network on our calendar and in our socials. Dana Masters, SourceLink Communications Specialist, has asked affiliates to submit relevant events to the SourceLink calendar. SourceLink would also love to feature affiliate accomplishments, announcements, awards and good news in our newsletter and social media. Send updates to Dana Masters. 

Affiliate announcements, congratulations, and recognitions  

Pola Firestone, SourceLink Relationship Manager, shared some exciting affiliate updates.  

  • The GRID transitioned to Grow North WI from Nicolet College. Grow North is a regional economic development group established in Northern Wisconsin to help support local economic development corporations. Thanks to the wonderful staff at Nicolet College who worked so diligently to develop The GRID.  
  • Congratulations to Patrick Luensmann of IASourceLink who was named director at John Pappajohn Entrepreneurship Center at University of Northern Iowa. 
  • Thanks to the affiliates who have completed the recent SourceLink survey. This informal survey gives us great feedback about our products and services and an update on affiliate plans for 2024. Katy Cook, BizLink Orange, suggested staying after our Quarterly Conversation calls to discuss technologies or other subjects, which we will give a try after our next one in July. All affiliates will be sent a survey in the coming weeks. If you haven’t responded, please do. 

Major Announcement 

 InBIA’s annual Forum will take place October 22-24, 2024 in Kansas City, MO. The Forum this year is supported by SourceLink, Third Eye Network, KCSourceLink and MOSourceLink. Please contact Pola Firestone to share your topic and speaker ideas and subscribe to the SourceLink newsletter to get updates on the event.   

Best Practices in Marketing  

Callie England, Marketing Director of the UMKC Innovation Center, and David Cawthon, Senior Editor for KCSourceLink and MOSourceLInk, joined us to share three key components to include in your marketing strategy: storytelling, large events and thought leadership.  


Featuring the stories of local entrepreneurs in blog posts, newsletters, ebooks and social media is a cost-effective way to share the good news about small businesses in your community and drive traffic to your website. Entrepreneurs encounter conflict, so they make great feature stories. Make the stories interesting by talking about their business ideas and how they were inspired to move forward.   

Earlier this year, KCSourceLink featured a story on their blog about local entrepreneur and loctician, Talicia Black, whose dream was to style the hair of Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco. The story included conflict, resolution and was timely since the story was published right before the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. 

Another way to generate stories is to ask resource partners for ideas. They could have a guest blog about an entrepreneur’s journey or outline a “how to” blog that addresses pain points for small businesses. If you’re not able to write yourself, working with your resource partners or a contract writer is a great way to outsource stories. Blogs are content generating tools that drives search engine optimization, (SEO) which comes from organic searching and traffic. When sharing those stories, Callie suggests not wasting time on social media sites if that’s not where your audience is. For example, KCSourceLink focuses efforts on LinkedIn. 

Large Events 

KCSourceLink’s largest event is Global Entrepreneurship Week – Kansas City (GEWKC) held in conjunction with Global Entrepreneurship Network’s (GEN) international Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) each November. In 2023, GEWKC drew 4000 session attendees over 3 days on site and more than 1000 unique attendees. Sessions from GEWKC are a prolific content generation tool that can be used as a library people can access all year long. Leading up to the event, presenters can use content from their session as a marketing tool. David recommends looking out for little moments at these events to be used in storytelling later. As an example, last November an Uber driver took a passenger to GEWKC and the driver stayed for the session. 

When hosting your own GEW event, keep in mind that it can be done on a low budget. You can utilize resource partners to create classes and host sessions. By participating in GEW, the content generated from the event keeps your brand in sight for the entire year. With additional funding, KCSourceLink will take GEWKC remote for a larger audience and partner with other cities.   

Thought Leadership 

As entrepreneurial ecosystem builders and thought leaders in your community, create ways to share your expertise and knowledge. Use metrics, data and content to generate reports and drive traffic to your website. The KCSourceLink “We Create Jobs” report includes data from 2018-2022 that presents information on job contributions by area startups, survival rate of KC startups vs. national firms, job creation by startups and more. Journalists love these kinds of reports, so try to localize the data for media coverage.  

Mark Burdette, Program Coordinator at West Virginia BusinessLink, (WVBL) collaborates with a large team from the WV Entrepreneurship Ecosystem to host Bridging Innovation Week, the state’s premier annual entrepreneurship event. Each spring, the event is hosted by a different part of the state. In 2023, Bridging Innovation Week served more than 1,000 participants across 12 events that engaged hundreds of ecosystem members. Additionally, over $200,000 in technical assistance and funding was provided to entrepreneurs and small business owners during the event.  

WVBL is supported by the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, who also co-sponsors the event and takes an active role in its marketing. The Bridging Innovation Week landing page is on the WVBL website which helps drive traffic. As part of their marketing efforts, The Department of Commerce team creates podcasts, captures audio and video for YouTube, while West Virginia University sponsors a pitch competition. 

Marketing a Launch 

Oʻahu Business Connector 

 Alyssa Goslee, Network Administrator for the City and County of Honolulu Office of Economic Revitalization (OER), Oʻahu Business Connector, joined our meeting to share exciting news about their recent network launch and their plans for getting the word out.   

Oʻahu Business Connector logo

 Initially, the Oʻahu Business Connector team held a soft launch for resource partners that included training for using the website and how to update their organization’s profile on The Resource Navigator®. Attending the event was Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and key stakeholders who will be championing the program. The soft launch gave the team time to work out some bugs before a full public launch press event was held two weeks later. The full public launch with the media included an announcement of the project by Mayor Blangiardi and OER Executive Director, Amy Asselbaye. 


Awareness for the first year is their biggest challenge; their goal is to become the central hub in the community where people can find resources and resource partners. Honolulu has a vibrant entrepreneurial community, with each area of the island having its own personality. This makes community engagement key and the Oʻahu Business Connector team understands that one area’s needs may not be the same as another’s. Along with direct community engagement, plans to get the word out include media pitches on broadcast television, print, radio, targeted email campaigns, social media with their resource partners tagged, their newsletter, and grass roots efforts in the community.  

Before the launch, they had full awareness of the severe economic impact to the island during the pandemic. The OER Outreach team created “resource connectors” who went out into the community to share information about local resources with small businesses. These resource connectors have been an integral part of the outreach efforts since then and are considered the “heart” of the program. Each team member continues to engage with small business owners, often reaching people who don’t typically attend events. They listen to what the entrepreneurs need and take back information to help create new programs.  

Additional plans for public engagement include group presentations, flyer drop-offs, get-connected hub events around entrepreneurs and resource partners. Some examples include get togethers in the Filipino community that include language translators and relevant resource partners, and regular small and individual meetings at coffee shops with adjacent businesses.   

For National Small Business Week, April 28-May 4, 2024, Oʻahu Business Connector is planning an event at the Waianae Farmers Market, an underserved area with few resources, to share information about the network. They plan to share what resources are available and listen to what small business owners need. They are also planning a weekday lunch on the topics of funding, marketing and how to navigate city resources. Finally, they plan a ‘Get Connected Hub’ event on a larger scale to learn more about what small business owners need.   

Fairfax CORE 

Maribel Feliciano, Entrepreneurship Development Associate for Farifax County Department of Economic Initiatives, Fairfax CORE, shared that they have also launched recently. Fairfax County is the most populous jurisdiction in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Initially, the project team’s challenge was to engage two different sets of resource partners: one group from within the county and the other being resource organizations internally within in the government. The project team was very thoughtful about how to engage each group and developed two different outreach campaigns. They selected an “A team” of resource partners comprising of the largest resource partners in the county that met every month and were engaged in helping develop the website, the brand logo, and the process for engaging other resource partners.  

Fairfax CORE logo

During a resource partner workshop, it became evident that one of the major benefits of Fairfax CORE is to help counselors learn about each other so they are comfortable in referring entrepreneurs to Fairfax CORE and the other resource partners. Fairfax CORE recently held a soft launch where they trained counselors on how to use the website and The Resource Navigator. Feedback from the counselors confirmed their excitement in finding an easy and convenient way to refer clients to other resources in the community.  

Fairfax CORE’s official launch featured a media event showcasing a newly published introductory video and a link on their website to easily access promotional materials. The event also included their resource partners to continue building relationships and networking. In the future, the team plans to take the show on the road, so they’ve asked resource partners to invite the team to upcoming events to demonstrate Fairfax CORE.  

Closing Thoughts 

Rob closed out the meeting asking affiliates to share one piece of advice with the newly launched Oʻahu Business Connector and Fairfax CORE. From Solomon, who helped launch Louisiana Business Hub, “Keep your momentum. Never stop enhancing your platform to make it better. We are always here to help you do that!” 

Deb Brown and Becky McCray, cofounders of SaveYour.Town

The next SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation is scheduled for Thursday, July 11, where guests Deb Brown and Becky McCray of SaveYour.Town will share how small towns can save their communities with their own people using their own resources.  

SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversations   

SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversations are a benefit for SourceLink clients. Agendas include topics, speakers and discussions suggested by our community of network and ecosystem builders and is an opportunity for the SourceLink network to share best practices and with one another. For more information about becoming a SourceLink affiliate and to join our conversations, please contact Krista Markley.