At the beginning of each year before we create our plans and goals for the upcoming months, we like to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and best practices. And oh, boy, what a year the SourceLink network had in 2016!
Communities across the nation were building and supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems through partnerships, summits, youth challenges and launches.
Here’s just a small sampling for what our affiliates have been up to and how they have activated and empowered their entrepreneurial communities.
Baltimore SourceLink Launches
In February 2016, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the launch of Baltimore SourceLink, an online resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Since the launch, Baltimore SourceLink has assisted 445 startups and existing business owners in the Baltimore City area.
SourceLink Virginia: Virginia Community Economic Network and Accion Partnership
Accion and the Virginia Community Economic Network (VCEN) launched a collaborative initiative to increase microloan access to small businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The two nonprofit organizations launched a pilot project making Accion’s affordable microloans and support services available to VA small businesses via VCEN’s SourceLink Virginia business resource portal.
This new effort helps Virginia entrepreneurs start and grow their small businesses through micro financing and business education, addresses gaps in access to capital and credit in underserved markets around the state. Read more about the Accion and VCEN collaboration here.
Before its grand debut in November, Puerto Rico’s Colmena66 used its entrepreneurial ingenuity and brought the community together for a Write-A-Thon where entrepreneurs and supporters gathered to volunteer to draft company profiles that would be sent to potential Resource Partners to approve and become part of Colmena66’s entrepreneurial resource network. More than 30 volunteers were in attendance and 100+ profiles were drafted.
Just a few months later, Colmena66 made its grand debut during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Our own Maria Meyers and Pola Firestone were in attendance along with 20 Resource Partners and community supporters at the launch event.
With 70 Resource Partners already by their side, entrepreneurs can now easily access a network of service providers and expertise through Resource Navigator while Colmena66 tracks entrepreneurs’ progress with Biz-Trakker, a client relationship management system built for entrepreneurial developers. Read the full scoop on how Colmena66 is identifying and bridging gaps in Puerto Rico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit
Over here at SourceLink, we hosted our first Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit, on May 4 and 5, 2016, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where we invited economic developers, community supporters and entrepreneurial movers and shakers to explore innovative ways to build stronger local economies through entrepreneurship. It attracted more than 200 participants nationwide.
The summit was a collaboration between the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Edward Lowe Foundation, NetWork Kansas and SourceLink.
Loudoun Small Business Week
The Loudoun (VA) Department of Economic Development and its partners celebrated their 5th Annual Loudoun Small Business Week, May 16–22, 2016. Nineteen events were scheduled for current and future small business owners including panel discussions, workshops, awards programs and a resource and social hour to educate, connect and celebrate the region’s small business community.
During this time, Loudoun Economic Development debuted an app that attendees used to track Small Business Week events, locations and speakers. Each event listing on the Loudoun SCW 2016 app included a Google map, live Twitter and Instagram feeds, speaker bios and an event survey.
In May 20–27, 2016, Kansas City’s KCSourceLink and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation hosted 1Week KC, a celebration connecting entrepreneurs throughout Kansas City. 1Week KC kicked off with a Startup Crawl offering a one-night tour of the metro’s many budding companies. Eight shuttles looped around 11 locations showcasing 100 startups.
The events continued throughout the week, including a multicultural business happy hour, a start and scale business day, a demo day for KC’s Sprint Accelerator and the 5th annual Entrepreneurship Day at the K where the startup community gathered, networked and cheered the World Champion Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
It was during 1Week KC that KCSourceLink launched SourceLink's Event Campaign Calendar that allows users to build personalized agendas and allows partner organizations an easy way to track and survey attendees.
NetWork Kansas: Youth in Entrepreneurship Challenge
This year, NetWork Kansas's Youth in Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) series participation doubled, representing more than 20 schools. Through the YEC series, E-Communities host local entrepreneurship competitions for students ranging in age from seventh to twelfth grade. The 2015-2016 school year marked their third successive year partnering with communities at the local level to organize these events.
National Urban League
The National Urban League opened the Raymond V. Haysbert Entrepreneurship Center in Baltimore, making it the 13th center in the National Urban League's ever-growing network. The center provides business training and educational opportunities to increase startup and success rates for business owners of color.
SourceLink Virginia Turns Two
SourceLink Virginia officially turned two this year. Initially starting off with 30 Resource Partners, their network has now expanded to more than 270 Resource Partners ready to assist Virginia’s entrepreneurs. Congrats, SourceLink Virginia! Here’s to many more years to come.
Iowa Rural Development Summit
In Iowa, IASourceLink and the Iowa Rural Development Council (RDC) hosted the first Iowa Rural Development Summit during Global Entrepreneurship Week. This unique event brought together 75 rural Iowa communities under 20,000 in population for a day-long strategic planning session as the first step in building a holistic vision for growth and prosperity.
Molino Project Launches
In Albuquerque during Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Molino Project launched The Resource Navigator alongside an impressive list of GEW events—all to build awareness of resources and connect entrepreneurs to the help they need. The Molino Project touts 54 Resource Partners and is rolling out TrepConnect, bringing the power of The Resource Navigator to entrepreneurs in a mobile app (currently available for iOS users).
Global Entrepreneurship Week
Using the Event Campaign Calendar, KCSourceLink showcased more than 100 events to 10,000 plus participants during Global Entrepreneurship Week. The calendar allows entrepreneurs and business owners to create their own itineraries that they can save and email to themselves while KCSourceLink builds its email list, tracks registrations and surveys attendees.
The Commons on Champa Receives Kauffman Inclusion Challenge Grant
The Commons on Champa in Denver received a $400,000 Inclusion Challenge Grant from the Kauffman Foundation to help female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color achieve higher rates of success. With more than 376 applicants, only 12 nonprofit organizations were awarded the grant. This is huge news and will propel the Commons on Champa to raising inclusivity for their entrepreneurial community.
What’s next for 2017?
Whew. 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 place, community by community.