One of the most important ways for entrepreneurs to connect with other entrepreneurs, potential mentors, advisors, and service providers is through the various events, meetups, and networking events in the region. There is tremendous value associated with developing and maintaining relationships with individuals and organizations that can assist an entrepreneur or small business throughout their journey. This is also where entrepreneurs can lead by example, organizing and facilitating many of these activities.
In Spokane, we have several recurring events, and by no means is this list exhaustive:
- Bowl & Pitcher is a bi-monthly networking event that brings together entrepreneurs, mentors, advisors and service providers for the purpose of making connections and developing relationships. This event generally includes a brief entrepreneur spotlight, providing a budding entrepreneur with the opportunity to share their story and experiences.
- Startup Weekend Spokane is a semi-annual event that brings 125-150 individuals who spend 54 hours over a weekend (Friday evening – Sunday evening) working on taking business ideas and turning them into minimum viable products. Spokane has held six Startup Weekends thus far, with several of the participating teams having already successfully launched their businesses.
- The Inland NW Business Plan Competition is an annual collaboration among our regions’ community colleges, universities, and high schools. Since its inception in 2000, hundreds of students and community members have participated, making this competition one of the regions best. Individual universities, including Washington State University and University of Idaho also host business plan competitions for their own students. Several of the past winners from each of these competitions have successfully launched their businesses.
- Meetup groups are growing quickly throughout our region. These are groups of individuals, with specific areas of interest, who meet regularly to share knowledge and expertise.
- Pitch Panels are a recurring event that provides the opportunity for entrepreneurs to get first-hand experience and feedback from a panel of experts and/or investors. The purpose is for entrepreneurs to obtain experience pitching their business idea or plan to panelists, and obtain questions and feedback that will assist in honing their pitch for a real investment pitch opportunity.
- Co-working spaces have also emerged as venues for networking events, training and workshops. For example, Spokane Community College holds monthly education workshops on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at Share Space Spokane. These free workshops cover a wide array of topics that are relevant to any startup or small business.
In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Innovation Collective provides several recurring events, including
- Fireside Chats
- Coffee & Concepts
- Tech Pub Night
- Educational classes
- Annual Think Big Festival
In addition to regular events, specific programming is being created that encompasses the region’s entire ecosystem:
- Startup Spokane StartPath Program – builds flexible “pathways” for entrepreneurs to follow along their startup journey. Advisors will be matched with entrepreneurs and will assist by guiding entrepreneurs through myriad support resources, from business concept all the way to the Startup Spokane Mentorship Program.
- Startup Spokane Mentorship Program – is designed to leverage the expertise of business leaders throughout the region to help the next generation of entrepreneurs develop successful and sustainable businesses. The Startup Spokane StartPath program is a prerequisite for entrepreneurs to be eligible for the Mentorship Program.
- Spokane Community College is launching a Small Business Boot Camp, an 8 week accelerated, non-credit evening program that provides education and tools to entrepreneurs and small businesses to help launch and/or grow their business.
- Centers for entrepreneurial success – are being planned in several rural communities throughout our region. Modeled after Share Space Spokane, these physical venues will provide co-working space, maker space, networking events, as well as training and education workshops.
- The Palouse Knowledge Corridor, which links Washington State University and University of Idaho, represents the best in research, science, and cutting-edge businesses located in the Palouse. Their annual “Be The Entrepreneur Bootcamp” in an intense week-long, hands-on training program designed to: accelerate the development of business models; test the viability of products and ideas; identify funding options; prepare entrepreneurs for business plans and investor pitches; provide cutting-edge marketing and customer acquisition strategies; and guide participants towards a lean and effective launch.
New events, meetup groups, and educational opportunities are continously being formed throughout the region. We encourage you to visit startupspokane.com regularly to stay informed about all of the current events and activities that are planned throughout the region.