And how can you leverage one to grow your business?
There are some great tools and ideas out there for growing your business from idea to a point of solid growth, but none more so than an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
What is an ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’?
Once you’ve got an idea for your business and are in startup mode, it’s time to look at what resources and support you’re going to need to move forward and begin scaling your business. Without these resources/support, you might open your business, but it’s near on impossible to grow and scale it to the tipping point that is profitability.
So what exactly is an ecosystem?
An entrepreneurial ecosystem is a community comprised of elements and resources, within a specific geographic region, that exists to support the scaling of a startup business.
In English, please? It’s a grouping of people and resources that help businesses grow. These people and resources are all located in one defined geographic area and look to support growth within those same boundaries.
Some have defined an entrepreneurial ecosystem as including the following: “…conducive culture, enabling policies and leadership, availability of appropriate finance, quality human capital, venture-friendly markets for products, and a range of institutional and infrastructural support.” (Source)
An example of a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem is in Chicago, Illinois:
“In the last decade, Chicago has emerged as a major player in the tech industry. The development of a successful business ecosystem is one of the main reasons for the significant growth. Key players in Chicago – including the City Government, the universities and community development organisations – have worked together to create the perfect conditions for start-ups to thrive.
Chicago’s Small Business Center (SBC) embodies the City’s ecosystem. The SBC is a hub of services and resources expertly curated to help entrepreneurs and small business owners. The format is similar to networking events and aims to connect business owners with consultants and experts.
Chicago also launched the Chicago Microlending Institute (CMI) in 2010. The purpose of the CMI is to loan capital to start-ups and small businesses. In 2014, the CMI provided $1 million in loan funds to 126 start-ups and small businesses situated across 54 Chicago neighbourhoods.” (Source)
How does the Startup Support Network in Innisfil work?
The Innisfil Startup Support Network, similar to Chicago, a perfect combination of public and private institutions, as well as individuals, who are coming together to create the right environment for businesses to start and grow.
- Strategy – this includes local policies that support the growth of businesses and services that exist to help in that growth. Simplifying growth for a business by being providing local resources and data that can help an entrepreneur make the right decisions. For example, the Innisfil Economic Development Team offers a concierge service to those who are looking to build or expand their physical premises: you can submit plans, meet with by-law officers, building inspectors and even fire and safety resources, in a one-stop shop development group for your plans! The point is to create a culture that fosters and indeed inspires the establishment and growth of new businesses.
- Another example is the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) helps entrepreneurs build and grow businesses. Located at the Georgian College Barrie Campus, HBEC is a one-stop shop for established and aspiring entrepreneurs providing training, mentorship, networking and funding support.
- Funding – one of the major causes of businesses failing is a lack of capital. An ecosystem that has a range of funding options for businesses at various stages is valuable. Grants and loans are available to businesses of all types, and the Innisfil Economic Development team exists to assist local entrepreneurs in tapping into these resources.
- Grants offered through Innovation Canada and Mentorworks are one option.
- Loans from the Business Development Bank of Canada, among others, require a tight application that a solid ecosystem can help to develop.
- Finding venture capital and angel investors who are already connected to the community. Speaking of community…
- Community – business isn’t built in a vacuum. It requires networking and mentorship options to really thrive and an ecosystem always includes a network of like minded startups, as well as savvy and seasoned entrepreneurs who can mentor new businesses in their growth phase. A great example in the Innisfil area is Startup South Simcoe: https://www.meetup.com/Startup-South-Simcoe/ – this group brings together local entrepreneurs, municipal stakeholders and other business groups to create a networking resource where growth and opportunity abound.
- Infrastructure – from locating commercial space to making co-working environments available; nurturing education through the ideaLAB to maintaining a municipal economic development group that is working hard to foster the environment required to grow businesses. This is only the fine edge of what the infrastructure part of an ecosystem can provide to growing businesses, helping entrepreneurs to scale to the top of their goals.
The key is the coming together of resources and people from different disciplines, but with the common intention of creating an environment that supports and nurtures the growth of entrepreneurs and their businesses. It’s the key to the future of business and to the long term benefit of communities, large and small, across the country
If you’d like to learn more about Innisfil’s Startup Support Network , join our mailing list to keep updated on our upcoming Innisfil Accelerates programs, workshops, and other business services.