11.24.20

Dissent makes good ideas great

An often-overlooked attribute of a healthy community is the courage of dissent.

Politics teach the way you win is to marginalize dissent. Yet, confident communities tolerate the messiness of disagreement. Dissenters’ views are welcomed as a way to sift ideas, strengthen plans and avoid costly mistakes.

Constructive dissent is less about resistance. It is more about inviting diverse perspectives and contradictory opinions to the table.

Wise leaders recognize the first idea is seldom the best. Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prize founder, said, “If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.”

It turns out he was an optimist. Research suggests three of every 10,000 new ideas survive to become successful innovations.

Many transformative ideas are superficially attractive and short-lived. That’s OK. It is part of a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” process. It weeds out “so-so” ideas. Constructive dissent ensures the strongest, most viable ideas survive.

Testing ideas through constructive dissent requires great energy. When refining an idea, you can’t skip steps that are too complicated.

“Simple can be harder than complex,” Steve Jobs famously said. “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Constructive dissent is a willingness to abandon well-worn paths to pursue new ones. Dissenters challenge you to revisit assumptions, look in new directions, embrace alternative models and leave behind “me-too” thinking. A senior Disney leader once said: “If you don’t change what you see, what you see doesn’t change.”

Confident communities welcome courageous ideas and constructive dissent. These are not opposing forces. They are the twin gears that drive innovation. Only creativity paired with dissent can empower communities to resist groupthink and confirmation bias.

“Organizations never die from dissent, but many die from conformity,” wrote Jacob Bronowski, the British mathematician and historian.

The same goes for communities. Today’s economic development plans too often look like copied versions of other community playbooks. Such copycat plans don’t fit local culture, competencies and character. Buyer beware.

These plans often create “boat anchors” and eyesores for future generations. “Me-too” communities are no more successful than “me-too” companies or products.

Even good ideas, if approved too quickly, can suck the oxygen out of effective decision-making. Confident leaders don’t allow even the best ideas to stifle innovation, cripple creativity or truncate alternatives.

As Cynthia Rabe warns in her book, “Innovation Killers,” listening to the same old “experts” leads to conformity. Conformity is the death of innovation.

Conversely, as inclusion expert Annie Jean-Baptiste reflects in her book, “Building for Everyone,” “new voices (and new combinations of ideas) are the core of innovation.”

Parkview Field was an idea born of constructive dissent – disagreement with then-dominant views about downtown Fort Wayne. Our community listened to new voices, which resulted in a community asset with a viable business model.

Yet, today it would be unwise to impose new conformity of thought based on the success of Parkview Field. Downtown baseball is more than a “symbol of what can happen when people take a chance.” It’s evidence of the value of constructive dissent.

In the future, when we debate the “next generation” of competing resource priorities – which may look like a downtown arena, riverfront development, an innovation district or similarly large-scale development project – remember to embrace constructive dissent. It is unwise to marginalize alternative voices as “outliers” or dismiss outright all opposing views.

As we redevelop Fort Wayne for emerging economic realities, we must embrace dissenters who question why some ideas die because of “finite resources” while others ride an “investment runaway train.”

Let’s find the courage to welcome and invite dissent. Like Nobel, let’s recognize it is the only way to weed through the thousands of weak ideas to find the one that will move mountains.

11.24.20

Join The NIIC and millions of others in #GivingTuesday global generosity movement on December 1, 2020

For immediate release

November 24, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind. This GivingTuesday, The NIIC encourages generosity by sharing client stories that celebrate the tenacity and resilience of Northeast Indiana business builders. Funds raised during this campaign will support the Reimagine Fund, designed to help underestimated founders located in our region who are facing liquidity problems and want to reset and reimagine their business model during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Please visit theniic.org/donate/ to support business builders in our region.

The Reimagine Fund was established through the generosity of campaign gifts to The NIIC during the #GivingTuesdayNow campaign in April 2020. The fund supports business founders located in Northeast Indiana who are looking to reset and reimagine their business models.  “Given the severity of the impact of the pandemic on business closures and the liquidity crisis, the generosity of our community is essential to building successful and sustainable business ventures in our community,” stated Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO, The NIIC.

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement, unleashing people, and organizations’ power to transform their communities and their world. GivingTuesday will kick off the generosity season this year by inspiring people to give back on December 1, 2020.

“GivingTuesday inspires people all around the world to embrace their power to drive progress around the causes they care about, not just on one day but throughout the year,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday’s CEO and co-founder. “With country and community leaders, millions of organizations, and countless givers of all kinds, GivingTuesday is creating a shared space where we can see the radical implications of a more generous world.”

To support entrepreneurs in Northeast Indiana, visit theniic.org/donate. See The NIIC social media (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube) for more information about The NIIC’s Giving Tuesday Campaign.

About The NIIC

499 new products launched, 196 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,351 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception two decades ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $100.4 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures. The NIIC bolsters innovative companies to move ideas into action. The NIIC is located in a designated U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. In April 2018, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb designated The Northeast Indiana Innovation Park Campus as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit.

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11.16.20

Annual Entrepreneurial Event Honors Entrepreneurs, Inspires to Innovate During a Pandemic

   

For immediate release

November 16, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind. At the beginning of this year amidst an emerging pandemic, the projections were bleak for small business owners. Some have not survived. Yet, some have taken the opportunity to reinvent themselves and thrive. Such companies were celebrated at today’s Dr. Daryl R. Yost Ideas@Work Livestream Events.

The Mirro Business Builder Award is named after Dr. Mike Mirro, physician, entrepreneur, visionary, researcher, community leader, and founding board member of The NIIC. The award honors an entrepreneur who personifies core traits of personal excellence, energy, passion, and making a lasting community impact. This year’s award was presented to Angela Harrison, Bakerson Pie Company. “This is a huge honor, and I’m so thankful. Thank you for the vote of confidence through this award,” said Harrison.

The WEOC Launch Women Business Builder Award was presented to four clients who completed this year-long program. The program serves as an accelerator for women who want to start, grow, and accelerate their digital, e-commerce, mobile app or web-based businesses and focuses on mentoring, growth resources, and capital. Award recipients included:

  • Angelica Cotton, Owner, Creations by AC, is a custom design store, dedicated to help customers create and order customized products. “During COVID-19, I have learned that people have changed how they spend their money. I have dwindled down my product offerings to focus on products that people truly want,” said Cotton.
  • Angela Harrison, Owner, Bakerson Pie Co serves as Fort Wayne’s newest little pie shop, offering carry-out, pie club memberships, and can be found at area farmer’s markets and events. “I am not a lone ranger. I need the brainpower of working with a group. This program was key to me to keep moving forward. It helped me to identify what was essential. I’m thankful for the energy and contributions of the group,” said Harrison.
  • Jackie Hook, Owner, High Point Ready, provides equestrian product subscription boxes for the all-around horse and rider. “This program provided a lot of accountability and direction. During the pandemic, my company experienced some shipping delays. I discovered new shipping options to address them. I also did different kinds of boxes, like for North Carolina 4H and 4H youth programs. Those got my company in front of some new markets.”
  • Carli Webb, Owner, The Healthy Female Project, is an alternative and holistic health service. “At The Healthy Female Project, we know women want to feel confident in conceiving and growing their babies,” said Webb. The company provides credible, easy to understand, actionable information to do that.

WEOC Founder’s Cup Award is funded through Ideas@Work sponsorships and helps provide access to capital to WEOC Launch Women Business Builders. One founder is selected from each cohort to receive the $500 award. This year’s Founder’s Cup Award recipient is Jackie Hook.

The Dr. Daryl R. Yost Excellence in Philanthropy Award is a new award honoring a former NIIC colleague and friend. Maclyn (Mac) Parker, Chair, The Olive B. Cole Foundation, is the inaugural award recipient. “Mac is a board member of The NIIC and has been since its inception. Through his leadership and commitment, he has demonstrated his ability to support The NIIC throughout its life. It is an honor on behalf of The NIIC Board and our entire organization to award this to Mac Parker,” said Karl R. LaPan, NIIC President and CEO. Upon receiving the award, Mac said, “It is a real honor to receive this award, particularly because it is named after Daryl Yost. He was a mentor of many and a good friend to a lot of us.” While accepting the award, Parker reflected on visiting Indianapolis and Chattanooga some years ago and was inspired to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors for Northeast Indiana. This led, in part, to the formation of The NIIC. “New job creation and helping entrepreneurs is important to economic development. The NIIC has fostered that. Karl LaPan has been such a great leader, and The NIIC has done so much in our community, leading entrepreneurship.”

Serial entrepreneur and WKI Founder (wendykennedy.com) Wendy Kennedy inspired the Livestream participants. She emphasized how today’s business builders have to rethink their business models, find alternative revenue streams, expand their business model thinking, and engage their potential customers to find out how their needs have changed to stay relevant. She challenged business builders to be resilient, never quit, and confidently move toward their dreams.

Ideas@Work concludes on November 18, 2020. Two additional upskilling workshops round out this year’s offerings. Creating Exceptional Customer Experience is November 16, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and will be led by LaPan and Ted Baker, CEO/Executive Director, Muncie Innovation Connector, Inc.  Failure in a Culture of Innovation is November 18, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and led by LaPan. Both are Livestream events.

For further information about the bonus upskilling workshops or learn more about the Dr. Daryl R. Yost Ideas@Work movement, visit https://theniic.org/ideasatwork.

Cutline 1: WEOC WBC Launch Women Business Builder Program Award to Angela Harrison, Bakerson Pie Company

Cutline 2: WEOC WBC Launch Women Business Builder Program Award to Jackie Hook, High Point Ready

Cutline 3: WEOC WBC Launch Women Business Builder Program Award to Carli Webb, the Healthy Female Project

About The NIIC

467 new products launched, 189 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,290 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception two decades ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures. The NIIC bolsters innovative companies to move ideas into action. The NIIC is located in a designated U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. In April 2018, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb designated The Northeast Indiana Innovation Park Campus as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit.

About WKI

Since 2005, WKI-wendykennedy.com inc. has delivered robust, innovative, and visual design thinking frameworks for business builders to ideate and find the business value of ideas. The WKI methodology,  So what? who cares? why you?® has supported thousands of researchers, scientists, engineers, and other innovators across the globe to discover the opportunity their ideas represent and unlock their full business potential. With certified professionals in more than 20 countries, this unique methodology has been used to explore the business value inside early-stage ideas spanning medical devices, alternative energies, robotics, aerospace, drugs, sensors, and more. Customers include the European Space Agency, Air Force Research Labs, The University of Texas, University of Florida (UF) Innovate, University of Nebraska, Community Health Network, The NIIC, and many others.

Contact: Tammy Allen, Director|Marketing & Programs, tallen@niic.net, 260-407-1731

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10.26.20

New Program Aims to Grow Innovation Capacity

Excerpt

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

FORT WAYNE – The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center in Fort Wayne is launching a program designed to grow the region’s capacity for innovation. The center says the Innovator Mindset Mastermind program shares content created by entrepreneur Dennis Stauffer, which includes tools that can help business owners and entrepreneurs through an innovation capacity growth process. The tools include four, 90-minute discussions as well as peer-to-peer mentoring, community building and support.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Women’s Business Center EmPWR Program Manager Sarah Lance said the immersive program is different than typical mastermind programs.

“Innovation capacity is something you can grow,” says Lance. “It’s different than your personality which might be kind of set. Innovation is something that you can continue to grow in and do better over time.”

The free, online program is being hosted through a virtual format that allows participants from around the state to take part. The monthly cohorts can be as big as 15, but Lance says ideally, the program aims to serve five to seven business owners in each cohort.

“Because we are sponsored by the SBA Office of Women Business Ownership, we are required to market to women, but the program is available to everyone,” said Lance. “And, we are certainly seeking to serve women as well as diverse and underserved entrepreneurs through the programming.”

Click here for full article on InsideIndianaBusiness.com.

10.05.20

7th Annual Ideas @ Work Signature Entrepreneurial Celebration Event

Featuring Keynote from Global Innovation Leader and Technology Expert Wendy Kennedy

For immediate release

October 5, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind. The Indiana entrepreneurial community, educators, and business leaders can celebrate the entrepreneurial community and be inspired to enact winning ideas by Wendy Kennedy, President and Founder, WKI-wendykennedy.com. Kennedy is a global innovation, design thinking and technology expert; an award-winning professor; and author. Her Livestream keynote talk, on November 12, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., entitled Ignite the Spark—Inspire Innovation During a Pandemic will be an entrepreneurial event you will not want to miss. Registration is open on the Ideas@Work website page on TheNIIC.Org.

The NIIC offers this opportunity to learn from Kennedy through its annual Ideas@Work signature event. “Our world is amid a Great Reimagination—the next wave of business innovation and expansion—triggered by the pandemic. It is up to each of us how we will move forward by sparking innovation in rethinking our business models, reimagining our core business and realizing our individual creative potential. Wendy’s expertise, perspective, and experience will prompt participants to translate ideas into business opportunities,” said Karl R. LaPan, NIIC President and CEO.

This year, as a posthumous honor of The NIIC’s dear friend and colleague, the event’s new name is The Dr. Daryl R. Yost Ideas@Work Event. Dr. Yost was an incredible educator, innovator, and philanthropic leader in our community. He was instrumental in the formation and execution of the Ideas@Work signature event series and inspired students, educators, and leaders to be active participants in The NIIC’s special signature fundraising event.

During this year’s event, the Mirro Founder Award will be presented to a NIIC client to celebrate outstanding accomplishments  during this past year. The NIIC will also introduce a new award at the event: The Daryl R. Yost Excellence in Philanthropy Award.

WKI is no stranger to the Northeast Indiana entrepreneurial community. Four of The NIIC’s leadership team members are WKI Certified Coaches.

“Wendy’s global business building and innovation expertise is a great fit for Ideas@Work because it is more than an event. The WKI methodology has helped innovators put their ideas on the payload of a spacecraft, launch new drug discoveries, and help startups turn their ideas into winning businesses,” said LaPan.

Ideas@Work past keynote speakers include leading entrepreneurs and thought leaders Santiago Jaramillo, CEO and Co-founder, Emplify; Angie Hicks, Co-founder of Angie’s List; Dr. Donald Kuratko (Dr. K.) of The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University; Chuck Surack, CEO and Founder, Sweetwater;  J.B. Bernstein, Legendary Sports Marketing Pioneer; and Eric Doden, President, Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

For further information and to register, see https://theniic.org/ideasatwork.

About The NIIC

467 new products launched, 189 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,290 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception two decades ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures. The NIIC bolsters innovative companies to move ideas into action. The NIIC is located in a designated U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. In April 2018, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb designated The Northeast Indiana Innovation Park Campus as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit.

About WKI

Since 2005, WKI-wendykennedy.com inc. has delivered robust, innovative, and visual design thinking frameworks for business builders to ideate and find the business value of ideas. The WKI methodology,  So what? who cares? why you?® has supported thousands of researchers, scientists, engineers, and other innovators across the globe to discover the opportunity their ideas represent and unlock their full business potential. With certified professionals in more than 20 countries, this unique methodology has been used to explore the business value inside early-stage ideas spanning medical devices, alternative energies, robotics, aerospace, drugs, sensors, and more. Customers include the European Space Agency, Air Force Research Labs, The University of Texas, University of Florida (UF) Innovate, University of Nebraska, Community Health Network, The NIIC, and many others.

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09.25.20

Help available for women starting tech companies

Excerpt

Indiana women starting and growing new technology companies are invited to apply through Oct. 9 for the Launch Women Business Builders program, an initiative of the WEOC Women’s Business Center at the NIIC.

Participants establish and grow their businesses through this three-phase program: Phase 1 Business Model (12-week duration), Phase 2 Implementation (6-month duration), Phase 3 Growth (3-month duration). The program includes one-to-one business coaching, peer-to-peer mentoring, training and workshops, shared workspace at the NIIC, the NIIC Navigator Learning Management System, potential funding to fuel business growth, and access to the NIIC’s extended talent network.

Cohort 6 will be announced mid-October, and the program is set to begin the week of Oct. 26. Up to 10 companies may be accepted into the program. Once accepted into the program, participants invest in a $299 program fee. Up to five program participants may be eligible for up to $1,000 non-dilutive funding at the completion of Phase 2.

09.21.20

News Release: Registration Opens for Tech Women Business Owners

WEOC Invites Applicants for Launch Women Business Builder Program

For immediate release

September 21, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind.— Gensyn Design Founder and Design Thinker Jennifer Hunter credits Launch Women Business Builder Program and WEOC Women’s Business Center for supporting her to advance her business. “I would not be where I am—if I would have started at all—without the WEOC and the Launch Women Business Builder Program.  The community of women and the structure it provided to me were essential to getting Gensyn Design off the ground,” said Hunter. Indiana women starting and growing new technology companies are invited to apply through October 9, 2020.

Participants establish and grow their businesses through this three-phase program: Phase 1 Business Model (12-week duration), Phase 2 Implementation (6-month duration), Phase 3 Growth (3-month duration). The program includes one-to-one business coaching, peer-to-peer mentoring, training and workshops, shared workspace at The NIIC, the NIIC Navigator® Learning Management System, potential funding to fuel business growth, and access to the NIIC’s extended talent network.

Cohort six will be announced mid-October, and the program is set to begin the week of October 26, 2020. Up to 10 companies may be accepted into the program. Once accepted into the program, participants invest a $299 program fee. Up to five program participants may be eligible for up to $1,000 non-dilutive funding at the completion of phase two.

Launch Women Business Builders is an initiative of the WEOC Women’s Business Center at The NIIC.

“Thirty companies have participated in this program since it was launched two years ago. These new tech companies have introduced apps or websites for design thinking, real estate, ride-sharing, interior design, e-tail stores, and memberships for education and wellness programs,” said Leslee Hill, Director WEOC. “We are excited to see what industries, products, and services come through our next cohort.”

For more information, visit https://theniic.org/start/launch-women-business-builder/

About The NIIC

467 new products launched, 189 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,290 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception two decades ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures. The NIIC bolsters innovative companies to move ideas into action. The NIIC is located in a designated U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. In April 2018, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb designated The Northeast Indiana Innovation Park Campus as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit.

About WEOC Women’s Business Center

2,354 women and immigrants served, trained, and counseled—since WEOC Women’s Business Center formation five years ago. WEOC Women’s Business Center serves Northeast Indiana women at all stages of their business ventures. We respond to the unique needs of women entrepreneurs through business growth coaching, training, and entrepreneurial education, connectivity and access to capital. WEOC Women’s Business Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. As the Host Organization, The NIIC also provides supplemental funding and complementary resources. WEOC Women’s Business Center is an SBA designated Women’s Business Center—one of two in Indiana. For more information, visit www.inweoc.com.

Contact: Tammy Allen, Director, Marketing & Programs, tallen@niic.net, 260-407-1731

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09.09.20

Entrepreneurial Workshops to Train to Fund, Pitch, Buy or Sell a Business

Debi Kleinman, Executive Director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College

For Immediate Release

September 9, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind.— The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC) will host workshops in September to equip businesses with essential skills in innovation, commercialization, and more. Registration details for all events are available at https://theniic.org/our-events.

Money Matters On-Demand Workshop Series

Available through September 30, 2020

Microentrepreneurs and microenterprises gain specialized business-building support about bootstrapping; crowdfunding; friends, families, and fools; and fundamentals of angels.

First Pitch for Microentrepreneurs: Money, Mentors, and More Webinar

September 14, 2:00—3:00 p.m.

This training is available to all Hoosier business owners and is especially suited for entrepreneurs focusing on non-technical, main-street businesses with nine or less employees.

Buying and Selling a Business Panel Discussion

September 15, 8:30—10:00 a.m.

A panel of business owners, along with 1st Source Bank representatives, will provide insight into what it is like to buy or sell a business.

First Pitch for High Growth Ventures Seeking Outside Funding: Money, Mentors, and More Webinar

September 17, 5:00—6:00 p.m.

This training is available to all Hoosier business owners and is especially suited for STEM-related, academic, or third-party ventureable firms seeking outside capital and investment.

SBIR/STTR Essentials of Commercialization Webinar

September 22, 2:00—3:30 p.m.

Becky Aistrup, Managing Partner, BBCetc, will lead training on how commercialization and transition plans can be a key differentiator in the SBIR/STTR programs. The workshop will also address expectations for commercialization plans in Phase I and II projects, where to find cost effective market research, and obtaining quality support and commitment letters.

Pitch Coach Clinic

September 22, 10—11:30 a.m.

In this clinic participants get the opportunity to give their elevator pitches and receive input from Debi Kleinman, Executive Director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College, the #1 school for entrepreneurship in the nation. Kleinman leads the Blank Center’s strategy, new initiatives, programs, and team to drive impact through the Butler Launch Pad accelerator and Babson’s highly-rated entrepreneur experiences, such as the B.E.T.A. Challenge New Venture Competition, Rocket Pitch, and the Summer Venture Program. She is also an adjunct professor at Babson’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business and Executive Education Programs for Entrepreneurs.

Group size is for up to 10 participants.

About The NIIC

467 new products launched, 189 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,290 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception 20 years ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures by moving ideas into action. The NIIC’s 55-acre campus is a U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone and a designated Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. The NIIC received global recognition in 2020 as the International Business Innovation Association’s Mixed-Use Entrepreneur Center of the Year and recipient of the prestigious Dinah Adkins Award, one of InBIA’s top two honors.  TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit.

Contact: Tammy Allen, Director, Marketing & Programs, tallen@niic.net, 260-407-1731

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08.26.20

Inclusive Entrepreneurship Programs Create New Opportunities for Hoosiers

For Immediate Release

August 26, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind.— Pre-COVID-19 Pandemic, U.S. small businesses accounted for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity. Indiana-based nonprofit The NIIC believes small businesses will help to drive the Post-COVID-19 economy. The NIIC is working to narrow the opportunity gap for Indiana business owners through five inclusive entrepreneurship programs. The programs expand services to traditionally underserved groups in Northeast Indiana and across the state. These include:

  • Connected Communities Breakthrough
  • FAST-IN (Federal State and Technology in Indiana)
  • OPENS (Optimized Path for Entrepreneurial Network Success)
  • WBC EmPWR (Women’s Business Center Equity & Prosperity for Women Reimagining Businesses)
  • WEOC (Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center)

Some examples of these groups include rural business builders, disabled individuals, ethnic minorities, immigrants, ex-offenders, and other historically unserved community segments. The goal is to cultivate hidden entrepreneurial talent and help individuals live fuller, more prosperous, better-connected lives.

“The NIIC is dedicated to economic prosperity and social well-being for Hoosiers. We want to support them to maximize their entrepreneurial potential. This past year, we have focused on equitable assistance and non-traditional support for underestimated entrepreneurs. Through the support of generous funders plus our dedicated staff, our five new targeted and focused programs will broaden networks, strengthen communities, increase access to capital, and stimulate diverse business ventures,” said Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO, The NIIC.

Stacey Poynter, District Director, Indiana District Office, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), said, “Access to capital is a barrier to entrepreneurship that the SBA strives to erase. The NIIC has partnered with the SBA for the last five years to provide the Women’s Business Center (WEOC), and I am thrilled they are recipients of our FAST, PRIME, and EmPWR grants as well.  By working with partner organizations like The NIIC—who creates innovative and accessible programs for entrepreneurs—we are able to succeed in our mission of helping small businesses start, grow, expand, and recover, thus building stronger and more stable economies throughout Indiana.”

Connected Communities Breakthrough Program is a program funded by Foellinger Foundation and led by Program Manager Julie Sanchez. “There are real barriers to business ownership for many members of our community. Through innovative methods and customized curriculum, Breakthrough Program supports participants along a continuum. We help them to realize that they can be entrepreneurs and own businesses,” said Sanchez. Program participants learn how to launch a business through this program. The first cohort started in June 2020. Cohort two recruitment is in progress. Click here to apply.

https://northestindianainnovationcenter.formstack.com/forms/connected_communities_application_for_support

FAST-IN Program is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Federal State and Technology (FAST) Partnership Program. The program’s purpose is to increase the number of Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) proposals successfully submitted by Indiana entrepreneurs. Increased funding through this initiative could lead to more research, development, and innovation in the state.

Jeff Erickson, Principal Investigator, Engine Research Associates, Inc. benefited from the FAST-IN Program by saving valuable work time. “We worked through FAST-IN to submit a recent SBIR application. The program easily saved our company 100 hours of work time. That’s a big deal for a small company like ours. SBIR grants are essential to our company’s growth and research,” said Erickson. Engine Research Associates is developing covert, fuel-efficient engines for unmanned aerial vehicles. FAST-IN is offering various webinars to train individuals how to submit successful proposals. More information is available on The NIIC events website page. https://theniic.org/our-events/

OPENS Program is funded by the U.S. SBA Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME). OPENS focuses on connecting low-income microentrepreneurs to vital services, access to capital, and other common start-up barriers to improve new-business formation rates. “Microentrepreneurs typically have five or fewer employees. Access to NIIC resources and support, and exposure to new networks, can be fundamental to their success,” said LaPan.

This program offers no-cost business coaching and start-up training to eligible microentrepreneurs in Northeast and East Central Indiana.

WBC EmPWR is a one-year initiative funded by the U.S. SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO). It runs through April 2021 and focuses on women business owners adapting their businesses for success during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program empowers female founders to innovate, reimagine business models, gain resiliency through tools and resources to create more sustainable and viable ventures. EmPWR is available to Hoosiers living in Indiana who are not served by the Central Indiana Women’s Business Center. Learn more about WBC EmPWR and apply for the program by clicking here. https://theniic.org/empwr/

WEOC Program achieved its five-year milestone this year and serves women business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journeys. Nearly 2,000 women business owners have participated in WEOC.

WEOC’s Launch Women Business Builder Program serves female-founded digital, e-commerce, app, or web-based businesses at no cost to participants. Participants build a business action plan and complete market research and strategies. They receive management assistance, coaching, strategic planning, and more. The goal is to increase business guidance and education for women of all socioeconomic statuses across 16 Indiana counties.

About The NIIC

467 new products launched, 189 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,290 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception 20 years ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures by moving ideas into action. The NIIC’s 55-acre campus is a U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone and a designated Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. The NIIC received global recognition in 2020 as the International Business Innovation Association’s Mixed-Use Entrepreneur Center of the Year and recipient of the prestigious Dinah Adkins Award, one of InBIA’s top two honors.  TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit.

Contact: Tammy Allen, Director, Marketing & Programs, tallen@niic.net, 260-407-1731

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08.20.20

Opportunity Amid Distress

Great Reimagination aims to jump-start post-COVID-19 economy by innovation

COVID-19 hijacked the American economy. Early estimates suggest more than 20% of small businesses will close permanently. Companies with underrepresented, diverse founders reportedly face even higher closure rates.

Unemployment has surged, and many of the jobs are not coming back. Companies adjust workforces and business models to adapt to new marketplace realities.

The Great Reimagination is a phrase coined at The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center. It describes what we predict is the next wave of business innovation and expansion for Indiana and the world.

It is time to cultivate and nurture a new cadre of generative, courageous, adaptive business leaders – innovators with the passion and drive to redefine business models, redevelop products and reinvent services for a post-COVID-19 economy.

COVID-19 affects companies and our daily lives. Changing consumer behavior creates economic pressure, driving businesses to change, too. The Indiana economy needs revolutionary breakthroughs from inventors and disruptors. It needs to usher in a new generation of entrepreneurs and startups. Economic distress creates opportunity. Opportunity breeds entrepreneurship.

Northeast Indiana remains a dynamic marketplace for cultivating new business growth.

Our region boasts resources to help Hoosiers to innovate through the Great Reimagination. The innovation center brings together workspace, capital, talent and expertise to fuel economic recovery driven by a resurgence of entrepreneurial spirit.

Through national, state, regional and local collaborations, The center inspires, supports and accelerates the hometown team. Over the past several years, underrepresented entrepreneurs have especially been a focus as we work to level the playing field for them. Multiple funders back these individuals through our new and existing programs.

Individuals served through these programs may include women, rural residents, immigrants, minorities, veterans, those with disabilities, the formerly incarcerated and others. Our programs encourage these individuals to overcome barriers to form and sustain business ventures.

For example, our Breakthrough Program, funded by the Foellinger Foundation, connects historically excluded aspiring business owners to sources for advising, training, business planning, assessments, coaching and more.

OPENS – the Optimized Path for Entrepreneurial Network Success – connects low-income microentrepreneurs, whose companies have fewer than nine employees, to vital services, access to capital and business coaching.

The Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center is one of two federal Small Business Administration-funded women business centers in the state.

Since its formation five years ago, more than 2,000 female business owners have benefited through workshops, training, business coaching and mentoring.

The center’s newest program emerged as a solution for women business owners dealing with the realities of a COVID-19 economy. WBC EmPWR (Equity and Prosperity for Women Reimagining their Businesses) empowers women to reimagine business models for success despite COVID-19.

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership funds this one-year program that runs through April 2021.

The federally funded FAST-IN Program aids inventors, researchers, scientists and small businesses pursuing funding for research and development through Small Business Technology Transfer and Small Business Innovation Research grants.

Such funding helped Engine Research Associates, Inc. evolve from the founder’s hobby, located in the family garage, into a family-owned business that advances U.S. Department of Defense initiatives.

This statewide program targets Opportunity Zones and underrepresented scientific and professional knowledge workers. The goal is to fund key applied development and commercialization activities. Our center resides in an Opportunity Zone.

The Connected Health Lab is creating a statewide network of researchers and innovators to stimulate cutting-edge breakthroughs to apply Internet-of-Things technology to health sciences to transform health care delivery.

Hoosiers, it is time to step up, make the most of these opportunities and get our economy back on track.

Reimagine a business model to address the realities of our new economy.

Reinvent a product to transform old ways of doing things.

Create a breakthrough idea for a new service to meet consumers where they are today.

Become a business owner who hinges your company’s growth to disrupting established industries.

Start a business to free you from the frustration of your income being dependent on other people’s decisions.

Act on your passion and commitment to launch your own business.

Now is our time. The Great Reimagination offers abundant opportunities to pummel the pandemic, sow seeds of innovation and grow prosperous businesses.

Karl R. LaPan is president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.