Believe in a Dream, Electric Works, Elevate Ventures, Fortitude Fund, Founders Spark, Own Your Success, Score Mentors and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center shared a dozen social media posts the first three business days of November at the same, new, convenient online location.
That was a sampling of updates posted on FuseNEI.com, a month-old resource hub for northeast Indiana residents who could use some help developing a business or turning a side-hustle into one.
Content for the site comes from scores of entrepreneurial service organizations in the region offering that kind of help.
In addition to a blog sharing their social media posts, it features a calendar of their upcoming events and a regional SEO directory that aspiring entrepreneurs can search according to the development stage of their businesses or 13 business development resource categories.
“We’re very pleased to have 30 organizations involved, which is great,” said Trois Hart, director of the Summit City Entrepreneur and Enterprise District, which issued a news release on the website’s launch. SEED Fort Wayne previously was known as the Urban Enterprise Association.
“We are really a robust group of organizations serving a growing and robust entrepreneurial culture here in Fort Wayne,” she said. “If you go back maybe five years ago, there were less than five organizations that would qualify.”
Fort Wayne has seen growth in the number of entrepreneurial service organizations working to increase its successful business startups partly in response to a need for improvement, she said.
In 2017, a Techstars evaluation of the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem “found it to be very lacking,” said Hart, who has been with SEED since the middle of 2018.
“That did not make anybody happy and did spur some people to action that had not been involved.”
Cities across the country have been doing more to support small-business formation and growth, she said. After a number of metro areas managed to stimulate their economies significantly by expanding resources available to their entrepreneurs, forward-thinking midsize and smaller cities sought similar success.
“About five years ago they were all talking co-working spaces, and we still need more of those; we don’t just want to rent offices,” Hart said.
“Now we’re talking about accelerator programs. They take you from start to finish in a defined period of time,” she said. “Everybody’s talking about getting more accelerators and more pitch competitions. Entrepreneurs will get more practice in developing and practicing their pitches, and exposure to people who want to invest.”
FuseNEI.com’s search by resource category can be useful, she said, because some of the ESOs specialize or have special strengths in particular types of resources, and aspiring entrepreneurs unfamiliar with them may not know which would be best for their needs, such as mentorship, funding or business planning.
The website also offers continually updated information on startup education opportunities such as workshops, and on other upcoming events, which often are designed to help address those needs, Aaron Robles of Founders Spark said in the news release.
“The combined calendar brings all of the opportunities for networking into one place,” he said, “which overcomes one of the largest challenges when starting a business, which is, ‘How do I tap into local networks?’”
FuseNEI.com also was created to provide a focused, consistent voice to northeast Indiana’s entrepreneurship movement, Kristin Marcuccilli, Star Financial Bank’s chief operating officer, said in the release. In addition to her position with the bank, Marcuccilli serves as Entrepreneurship Committee vice chair for the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
“When we strengthen the network of resource organizations supporting the movement, we improve the ability of founders and other emerging companies to succeed,” she said.
FuseNEI.com was developed with financial support from IEDC, SEED, American Electric Power, Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. and the Knight Foundation.