(This article was originally published on the Innovation Collaborative’s website found here)
Entrepreneurs know that starting a new business is beyond difficult. It is grueling and stressful. By definition, creating a new business requires individuals to overcome a long series of obstacles. Entrepreneurs know that community support is vital to success.
Community support for entrepreneurs can take many forms. Support can be tangible with the provision of resources and assets such as funding, mentorship, legal assistance, etc. In some cases though, community support can be intangible. Intangible support includes encouragement, respect, and recognition of the importance of entrepreneurship by the community. Being encouraged to take the risk and being supported, recognized, and appreciated for shouldering the heavy burden is very important.
In 2015 the Erie community stepped up significantly to provide support to entrepreneurs in tangible and intangible ways. The community is making a statement of confidence in the fact that in order to build a thriving economy, entrepreneurship is key and must remain a priority focus, in addition to retaining and attracting business. Almost 100% of net new jobs are created by companies that are less than five (5) years old.
Tangible Resources for Entrepreneurs
The critical investments being made by a number of resource providers cannot be understated! There are many resources now offering additional and improved support to entrepreneurs. They are difficult to capture in their entirety. Here are just a few highlights:
- Penn State Behrend and Mercyhurst University are now partnered to provide a number of resources to entrepreneurs including the Innovation Commons, Quickstarter, and a student focused business plan contest. This activity is the result of a grant that was awarded by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, through their “Ignite Erie” program.
- Gannon University’s Erie Technology Incubator and Small Business Development Center deployed three Accelerator cycles and announced the launch of GEMS.
- BlueTree Allied Angels invested significantly, highlighted by their funding of RendrFX.
- The Blasco Library announced the Idea Lab to provide introductory education and support for entrepreneurs and those considering entrepreneurship.
- Ben Franklin Technology Partners made a number of investments into the region’s technology startups throughout the year.
- 25 expert mentors advised three more women entrepreneurs through the coveted 2015 Athena Powerlink Advisory Panels.
Community Support for Entrepreneurs
In addition to the tangible resources being provided to entrepreneurs, the Erie community encouraged and recognized entrepreneurs, led by the region’s media partners.
The Erie Reader provided an excellent profile of Chris Sirianni and Alice DeGeorge and highlighted the importance of small business activity to our community’s economic development. Though published at the very beginning of 2016, the article finishes a year of exceptional writing about the importance of small business to Erie’s community and economic development. The continued writing around small business followed February’s Industry, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship issue.
A quick Google search shows that the Erie Times News featured entrepreneurship in more than 25 articles throughout the year. Some of our favorites include:
- Picking a Winner: Investors betting on RendrFX
- Erie Businessman Talks Technology and Entrepreneurship
- Erie Starts to Embrace Innovation
As part of the Culture Building effort regionally, the Innovation Collaborative is proud to have facilitated a number of meet ups and events, and showcased several success stories. We also published our first Community Report and distributed ecosystem news two times a month to over 5,000 readers. The Innovation Collaborative also launched the Disrupt Erie awards to celebrate entrepreneurial risk takers who make the region a more prosperous place to live. Winners included: Erie Ale Works for Startup of the Year, PACA for Creative Entrepreneur of the Year, O.G. Crawford & H.O. Hirt for the Erie’s Hero Award & more! (View the complete list of winners).
In addition to the media, elected officials repeatedly stressed the importance of entrepreneurship in many conversations and speeches throughout the year, including County Executive Dahlkemper’s 2015 State of the County.
Erie is a Supportive Region for Entrepreneurs
The list could go on and on. The key takeaway is this: Erie is becoming a more supportive region for Entrepreneurs. 2015 saw a significant increase in the amount of tangible resources available to entrepreneurs and an increase in the amount of vocal support from a diverse group of community leaders.
We, the people of northwest Pennsylvania, are unified in knowing that growing and celebrating a culture of entrepreneurship is extremely important to ensure our future economic prosperity.
Written by: Beth Zimmer and Bill Scholz
The Innovation Collaborative is Inspiring a Culture of Entrepreneurship in Erie County, PA