You think it takes a village to raise a child? Well, sometimes it takes a city to support an entrepreneur.
After ten years of helping entrepreneurs, I've become more and more convinced that the best way to start and grow a business is with the right advice. And that advice can come from anywhere — from attorneys, from marketing professionals, from investors, and from other entrepreneurs. Especially from other entrepreneurs. It's a collaborative process. But you have to find your collaborators. Sometimes in Arizona that's not as easy as it is in Silicon Valley or Austin.
That's why Stealthmode Partners keeps asking cities who focus on economic development to fund the Kauffman Foundation Fasttrac programs. Through Fasttrac, twice a year we get small groups of businesses together and meet with them every week for ten weeks. We bring in outside "experts," but we spend most of the time talking among ourselves–three seasoned entrepreneurs with the people who self-select to be in the program. And when I say self-select, I'm not kidding. These are the people who really do want to grow. There is "homework," and there are many good hard reality checks.
At the end of the ten weeks, during which we step the entrepreneurs through every aspect of a business and connect them with trustworthy resources (attorney, accountant, banker) who won't take them to the cleaners, those businesses become part of an ecosystem; they can use each other's services, they can access resources, and they have confidence in their decisions. We keep them in a database and keep in touch with them, letting them know of new resources as we find out about them (ARRA funds, SBA loans, tech incubators, whatever).
These programs generate and retain jobs for the cities that fund them, by keeping small businesses in business and helping them grow. The first city to fund this program was Phoenix, in 2003. Then came Tempe, then Gilbert, and now Mesa. These municipalities underwrite the expenses of the programs so that they are virtually free for the participants (except for the Kauffman materials, which are well worth the $100-150 depending on the program).
Please take advantage of these programs. Online enrollment is at http://www.arizonaft.com.
This spring the offerings are:
New Venture at the West Mesa CDC incubator, starting Wednesday morning, 1/20 at 9:00 AM
Growth Venture, offered by the Gilbert Frontrunner program, starts Tuesday evening Feb. 2 at 5:30 PM
Tech Venture is in Tempe, beginning Monday evening, Feb. 8 at 5:30 PM
Give a shout out to the cities, and come join us. We have fun. We help out. We care.