Best Practices

Practical Steps to Grow Your Entrepreneurial Community ​

Published Sep 25, 2018 by Sarah Mote

Practical Steps to Grow Your Entrepreneurial Community

How would you rate your entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Robust? Fragmented? Developed? Emerging? It’s a tough question, especially if you find that you spend your time working in your entrepreneurial ecosystem, not on it.

A different question, then: how are you building an infrastructure for your entrepreneurs? How is your economic development organization working to spark, support and sustain entrepreneurship, beyond organic growth and beyond mere collisions?

By working together to build infrastructure, an entrepreneurial ecosystem can emerge. How do you do that?

  1. Identify the entrepreneurial resources in the community and make them visible.
  2. Connect the resources through a central hub.
  3. Empower the ecosystem through engaging, listening and collaborating to fill gaps.
  4. Measure impact based on the ecosystem’s stage of development.

These steps help you build an infrastructure for your entrepreneurs. Sure, they seem straightforward, but they can be daunting because it requires working across programs, boundaries and with lots of people.

Step 1: Identify

When identifying resources, each part of the community might have a different view of the system. Funders might say resources are underutilized while the entrepreneurs say resources are missing or fragmented.

And yet, every community has resources. No matter how big or small the community is. And chances are you don’t know them all.

Step 2: Connect

In terms of connecting members of the community, the plan is simple but meaningful: Build a network, not a directory.

This is critical. Networks are living and breathing. They help the community begin to see gaps, also potential collaborators.

Step 3: Empower

Once a network is built, empowerment through engagement and collaboration will allow the network to make data-driven decisions, fill gaps, drive investment into the infrastructure, reduce duplication and amplify the message that resources exist and an ecosystem is growing.

Step 4: Measure

How do we know these steps work? Measure what matters.

The Holy Grail in economic development measurement is jobs. Individual programs can do that. But if you are talking about the whole community, it’s hard. Early measures may be more about the network itself.

These early measures can include:

  • Web visits
  • Network hotline calls
  • Calendar event attendance
  • Survey results
  • Social media traffic
  • Audience growth

Then, as the network gets more sophisticated, you move to broader measures, such as access to capital, innovation pipelines, demographics and connectivity of resources. Figure out what’s important to your community and measure that.

But remember this . . .

Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is no one person’s full-time job. Some people may barely have an hour a week to support the steps. So how can people with busy calendars move the needle?

Small tasks add up.

Be prepared to make a referral, share your startup process when needed, introduce an entrepreneur to a customer or mentor, attend a meetup, or celebrate an entrepreneur on your social media channels.

Each of these things takes a small time commitment, but each can help to take an entrepreneurial community to a new, more fruitful place for all.

Grow your entrepreneurial community

Marshal support for entrepreneurship to make your community better and help people change their lives. Read Beyond Collisions: How to Build Your Entrepreneurial Infrastructure for actionable strategies and steps toward moving your entrepreneur community forward. Or take a sneak peek and download the chapter Measure What Matters: a key piece of information to measure the success of your community’s efforts.


Sarah Mote of SourceLink
Sarah Mote is the marketing director at SourceLink. Sarah brings her experience as an entrepreneur, storyteller and content strategist to help shape the story of SourceLink and that of our affiliate communities.