Let us say you have had an idea rattling around in your head for a few years about how to improve a basic service or product that you have used in the past. You are pretty sure you have the knowledge and skill to deliver that enhanced service or product. Now you are wondering how to go about commercializing it.
Almost every business startup entrepreneur has gone down a similar path of having a great idea and wondering how to bring it to market. Occasionally, lightning strikes and the idea is truly a zero-to-one proposition–there was no one doing it and suddenly there is one doing it. However, those are few and far between. In most instances, the new idea is an enhancement or improvement over current services or products.
A number of organizations exist to support this type of would-be entrepreneur. Many years ago, states and local governments began establishing support networks to help people commercialize their ideas. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a major player in the small business support network; the Small Business Development Centers and the SCORE volunteer network are two examples of SBA efforts.
In recent years, more and more independent incubators and accelerators have popped up in metropolitan areas or near research universities across the nation. Public libraries have even started to engage in this support effort; the Naperville Public Library’s NaperLaunch Business Services Center is a prime example of libraries getting into the mix.
Usually, a startup founder already has a good idea; business acumen may be the thing that is needed most. That kind of help can generally be provided by the types of organizations mentioned above. One of the advantages of these groups is the personal experience of the people involved. Former founders like to share their expertise, and many of them can be engaged through participation at an incubator, accelerator, business development center or similar facility.
At the NaperLaunch Business Services Center, for instance, the focus is on teaching and sharing this kind of expertise. A partnership with experienced SCORE volunteers provides expert mentoring services to augment the library’s vast print and online information resources. This emphasis on authoritative information resources and expert mentors are just two of the things that set NaperLaunch apart from other startup organizations; another is the fact that these services are provided free of charge.
Most currently available programs assist startups in the very early stages of developing an idea, identifying a customer problem and creating a solution that can be delivered profitably. At NaperLaunch, startups are instructed and coached through these steps leading to development of a unique value proposition. The NaperLaunch Academy curriculum provides specific instruction on how to take these idea-development steps and then complete a break-even analysis, develop a business plan and create a marketing strategy.
In the past year, it became obvious that some NaperLaunch members had moved beyond the startup stage and needed new ways to advance their businesses. In response, several Master Mind groups were organized that have attracted productive founders to participate and continue their progress.
Program participants have voiced appreciation for the assistance gained. It is a testament to the philosophy of “giving back” that so many individuals have provided so much startup help to local entrepreneurs. In these ways the mission of NaperLaunch, to foster business success, is fulfilled.