Most industries and cities are dominated by juggernaut corporations. Small businesses are often overlooked, as are entrepreneurs. It’s time this changed, as the key to building a strong community is a strong ecosystem of local businesses.
Small businesses are the backbones of our cities. They can help an area during a financial downturn, thanks to steady capital coming into the local economy. They provide jobs for residents and spend with other local businesses for their B2B needs. How can you support start-ups and small businesses?
Here are two easy ways to support entrepreneurs and SMEs in your local area or industry.
Cultivate What’s Already There
Start by looking at what already exists in your community. Find what’s there and cultivate it. This approach puts the focus on growing sustainable jobs in small businesses that already exist, rather than subsidizing big business.
This is perfect for SMEs who are developing. They’re not in the startup phase anymore, and while a financial handout would still be appreciated, they don’t need one. What they do need is mentorship, business objectives, a model that allows them to grow. If you can help existing businesses answer basic business questions to identify their competitors and find growing niches, they will be better able to grow and create more jobs, at a much lower cost than subsidizing a big business.
Investing In New Innovations And Ideas
As business leaders like Alan Miller of Genesis Diagnostics know, small businesses need financial support to grow.
People love new ideas and innovations, and investors love to secure a stake in the next big thing. Bring this energy to your community with a pitch competition.
For example, look at the University of Akron’s Experiential Learning Center (EXL) and their Be The Change 10K pitch competition. The competition is open to students across all education levels and disciplines. The competition is sponsored by the Akron Leadership Foundation, the ideas from the students can be for non-profit or for-profit businesses, but they must give back to the local community in some way. The winner of this competition gets $10,000 in funding, alongside mentorship from experienced business owners.
An idea like this doesn’t have to reserved just for colleges and universities. You could easily transfer the idea into a community competition and judged by people like local officials, board members, and other business leaders from the community. A contest allows for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to gain a public platform, gain important experience, and to lay a solid foundation and business plan for their start-up. This also means that even those who don’t win are still in a good position to move forward with their idea. If you have other investors on the judging panel, they could choose to privately invest in other small businesses or projects that have impressed them. A $10,000 prize is also a much smaller cost than it would take to encourage a large corporation to set up in town, and it will have a much longer-lasting impact.