As we start our third year I thought I’d share reflections on our journey so far and let you know what’s new for 2022 and what we’re working on.
The $1,000 Start-Ups Consortium as a $1,000 Start-Up
When we launched the Pilot in 2020 we needed to prove to ourselves that we could walk the talk.
So we did exactly what we were asking the entrepreneurs in the Pilot Cohort to do. With only $1,000, we registered the business, bought two folding tables and tablecloths, designed a logo, handmade our signs, built a website, learned to use social media, and taught our program on Zoom.
We offered Entrepreneurship Training on Wednesdays and Financial Management and Life Skills training on Saturdays. Two classes a week, each with homework, resulted in some students not having the chance to really apply the lessons to the businesses they were starting. We are deeply grateful to those brave entrepreneurs who took the journey with us.
For the 2021 Cohort we combined some of the classes and continued to hold classes twice a week but only taught new material with homework once a week. In the second session each week we worked through issues cohort members were having as they opened their new businesses. We added cohort member presentations of related material, guest speakers, field trips, and class events.
Broadened Marketing Reach
We’ve broadened our reach in the local community. For our 2020 Pilot we sent out two Facebook posts and asked people to share them.
For the 2021 Cohort our marketing campaign lasted more than a month. Not surprisingly our marketing reached a broader audience and the preponderance of our students were those who’d been already working on or thinking about starting a business and by the 2021 graduation at the Spring into Action Small Business Fair more than 50 businesses have been involved at least one small business fair.
Our 2022 Cohort reflects that in size and experience. We have both entrepreneurs who are starting businesses and experienced entrepreneurs who are in the program to grow their business. I can’t wait to introduce them in an upcoming blog.
Enhanced Curriculum, Courseware, and Collaborators
We learned so much from the amazing entrepreneurs in the 2021 Cohort and are enhancing our curriculum to reflect those learnings.
We know from our own experience and from that of the first two cohorts that starting a business and taking the time to develop and continually improving standard operating procedures at the same time is like trying to change the engine on a 747 while in flight.
To address that we’re developing a set of refillable standard operating procedures the cohort will be provided that each entrepreneur can customize for her/his business.
We also learned the Financial Management curriculum we were using could make cohort members uncomfortable, particularly as they assessed their current financial position. We moved the financial management sessions to be later in the program to allow us to retool that curriculum.
Our 2022 collaborators in entrepreneurship, accounting, networking, doing business in Florida, business insurance, marketing, business accounting, and social media were top notch. We’re inviting each of them back in 2023 and will be adding collaborators in website building and customer relationship management to the line-up.