Entrepreneurs – In the book Startup Communities, Brad Feld believes that startup communities must be led by entrepreneurs, and the community in which they work must make a long-term commitment to encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship. Creating an environment where entrepreneurs can work, share, and learn together provides a powerful community platform for collaboration. Entrepreneurs that lead activities and events in their communities are likely to engage more participation than others who try to do the same. That said, it is very important that entrepreneurs lead by example and take a leadership role in their community ecosystems.
Mentors – One of the most critical support resources for any entrepreneur is a mentor. Many entrepreneurs launch businesses without considering the value of having someone who can ask questions that they haven’t yet considered, and/or provide guidance and direction that may significantly affect outcomes and overall success. Mentors are not generally assigned, but are rather relationship-based connections that evolve from introductions and networking events. Good mentors are authentic, direct, respectful, and truthful. They are good listeners, responsive, and empathetic – they provide actionable advice. In our community, connecting mentors with entrepreneurs has been identified as an critical success factor and area of focus. To that end, a more formalized mentor network and program is currently being established, reaching further into the community to identify individuals who have been successful entrepreneurs or business leaders who want to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Advisors (Coaches) – Another important role in the ecosystem is that of an advisor or coach. These individuals typically help an entrepreneur or small business navigate the ecosystem. For example, if a business needs funding, the advisor may help determine what type of funding the business is seeking, and direct them to the appropriate resource. We are fortunate that our regional chamber of commerce and economic development organization Greater Spokane Inc., recently hired an Entrepreneurial Program Director (Ryan Arnold). Ryan is the “uber” coach in Spokane, however, with so many opportunities to coach companies, it’s important for the community to establish multiple advisors and coaches who can assess the needs of an entrepreneur or small business, and direct them to the appropriate support resource. A logical environment for advisors and coaches are within the multitude of “spaces and places” where entrepreneurs work. These coworking spaces, office spaces, are often ecosystem entry points for entrepreneurs so ensuring that there are advisors and coaches in each of them is important.