08.26.20

Inclusive Entrepreneurship Programs Create New Opportunities for Hoosiers

Tammy Allen, Director | Marketing & Programs, The NIIC

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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