While Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) is continuing to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Spokane region, it is critically important to focus on developing strong entrepreneurial support systems throughout the rural communities of eastern Washington. Our vision is to create rural Centers for Entrepreneurial Success (CES) in communities, providing a physical venue for entrepreneurs to work, learn, share, and meet. These centers will be established and linked with the region’s urban ecosystem in Spokane. Specific support resources and programs that exist in larger urban areas can be leveraged by rural communities. Programs, including but not limited to angel investment funding groups, regional events (e.g. Startup Weekend, business plan competitions, etc.), mentors, advisors and service providers with specific skills and expertise. In addition to the physical CES, www.startupspokane.com is a website that will be enhanced to provide entrepreneurs and small businesses with region-wide access to events, support resources, blog, podcasts, online training, as well as access to other entrepreneurs.
Aligned with the efforts of GSI, each rural CES will have “Entrepreneurial Coaches” in place to facilitate education, access to support resources, and peer-to-peer learning for rural entrepreneurs and small business owners. An integrated network of ecosystems will be established, providing a crucial link between urban and rural resources and assets for entrepreneurs. Recognizing the fact that 96% of all businesses in the United States employ fewer than 50 individuals, it is more important than ever to foster new collaborations that spur entrepreneurship and advance our regional economy. By sharing information and resources throughout the region-wide entrepreneurial ecosystem, we will more effectively grow, strengthen, and sustain rural and urban economies throughout eastern Washington and beyond.