We talked to a lot of entrepreneurs while developing Supportedly.com, our free platform for helping entrepreneurs quickly find, understand, and connect to helpful support programs. Not only did they describe the help they need, but many expressed how frustrating finding it can be.
Interestingly, we learned that in most cases the problem was on account of too many resources than not enough. Surprised? We were, so we got busy detangling it. And, after gathering up all the feedback and combining it with our own experiences, we were able to zoom out and categorically identify the help entrepreneurs say they need most. Here they are
Entrepreneurs get that it “takes money to make money,” and they’re eager to find sources of funding as well as actionable information and tools to help them navigate the process.
Because the number of support programs providing information well outnumbers true funding partners in most ecosystems, it’s critical to help local entrepreneurs connect to early-stage investors and or lenders.
Advice & Mentoring
Starting and growing a business venture is difficult under even the best conditions. Entrepreneurs at all stages actively seek highly-actionable help from coaches, mentors, and other experts, which likely explains the number of support programs providing advice and mentoring to entrepreneurs. In addition to fundraising assistance, entrepreneurs want help from experienced, qualified mentor-types across the full spectrum of business startup and operation. Specifically, assistance with formation, fundraising, financials, talent acquisition, sales & business development, marketing and branding, product/service development, and team building/culture.
Building a rock-solid team of founders, employees, contractors and more is essential to the success of any business venture. It’s not as easy or authentic as it should be, according to entrepreneurs we’ve surveyed. Too many of them report struggling to find quality talent, especially in secondary and tertiary markets, and find little value in traditional programs like job fairs. Unfortunately, we’ve seen fewer support programs dedicated to talent acquisition and development than any other category.
Few would argue that the healthiest entrepreneurial ecosystems are those that provide ample opportunities for their stakeholders to connect with one another. Entrepreneurs do value networking through meet-ups, mixers, and classic networking events, but they increasingly desire programs and assistance that are more intentional and effective at helping them make valuable connections.
Niche programs that narrow the focus to a particular market segment, industry cluster or entrepreneur type do a better job making consistent, useful connections than general ones. Makes sense, right? A program actively connecting female entrepreneurs to startup capital, for example, should facilitate more valuable connections than a resource aimed all entrepreneurs.
Knowledge & Skills
Lifelong learning is vital for anyone wishing to improve their station in life, but it’s especially crucial for entrepreneurs. Traditionally, these programs have been the domain of institutions of higher learning, and today many colleges, universities, and schools are extending the reach of their instructional programs to include local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Similar to the rest of the categories, entrepreneurs desire that even traditional learning programs are made more relevant and actionable- meaning the lessons can be quickly applied to their business venture. Programs that offer hands-on instruction and experiential learning opportunities are most preferred.
Space & Tools
All but the most virtual of business ventures require physical resources to aid in their development. The most common of these being a place to work, which explains the rise in coworking over recent years. But, there are also numerous business models that require essential equipment that’s often cost-prohibitive for the average entrepreneur. Food & beverage, textiles, natural products, and laboratory & scientific are just a few examples where costly equipment is required to get businesses off the ground.
How does this compare to your ecosystem? Would your entrepreneurs agree with our assessment? If you’re not sure and want to find out, we think you’ll enjoy the next posts where we will provide you with a blueprint for mapping your entrepreneurial support ecosystem, identifying any significant gaps. Oh boy, it’s getting really exciting now!