From the Good Ideas File: more on Accelerators for non-tech businesses (videos)

A couple of months ago I posted some description and video of a business accelerator program that I participated in this spring called Bad Girl Ventures.  BGV operates in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, and it’s a little unique in the world of entrepreneurship growth strategies because is borrows many of the tricks that tech startups use and applies them to mostly non-tech businesses.  The intensive 9-week program pairs more formal training with two different levels of one-on-one coaching and mentoring, with the objective of having all participants fully prepared to apply for SBA loans or pitch for other funding at the conclusion.  Not all of them need funding — many can bootstrap — but if you have your ducks in a row well enough to apply for a business loan, chances are you have your ducks in a row well enough to run the business

I was going through it to work out the feasibility of a tech start up concept, but most of my classmates made specialty foods, ran dance studios, advised patients on healthcare options, etc.  I shared some of their early pitches in that first post, and also noted an important thing that I had already learned: after years of bootstrapping businesses myself, it was eye-opening to see how even the simple act of putting potential entrepreneurs face-to-face with mentors and peers who understood what they were trying to achieve had such a powerful impact on these fledgling’s determination to get through the barriers that kill a lot of hopeful businesses.

At the end of the session in June, BGV holds a big event, where current and former businesses can demonstrate their products, get more of that positive reinforcement, and perhaps even make a few bucks and find some potential supporters and partners.  So I thought I would share some videos from that event!

First, here’s Cheryl Stamm, the President of the BGV Board of Directors, giving a little sense of the scope of the organization.  Note the importance placed on alumni — and that the business she introduces at the end, Functional Formularies, sells organic food replacement liquids, the kind used by people on feeding tubes.

Second, here’s Michaela Coleman giving the pitch for her product, The Clutchery.  Bad Girl Ventures is often know for its marquee competition — ten finalists complete for a $25,000 loan  —  but not all business concepts need or want a loan.  Both Michaela and I were not in that competition — but that didn’t stop Michaela from using the experience to build a pretty great product demo.

Finally, here’s my good friend Matt Shad, who was also a mentor for a young couple preparing to launch Cincinnati’s first Indian food truck, Aaji.  Matt had been working closely with them for several weeks, so he was definitely the guy to explain to me what we were eating.  And it was darn good.

It takes surprisingly little to help businesses like this get off the ground. And while your conventional economic development folks might consider this small potatoes, the impact that healthy, vibrant small businesses have on their local economy — from employment to property investment to helping create the type of place where your “serious” businesses want to be… we cannot underestimate that anymore. Businesses like those coming out of Bad Girl Ventures are essential to our local economies, and it takes relatively little investment to help them grow and thrive.

My deep thanks to Cheryl, Carlin, Jim, Matt and all the Bad Girl Ventures officers, mentors and teachers who made it a great experience for me. And my deepest thanks to my classmates, who gave me a whole new perspective on what it means to be an entrepreneur.

And that business concept of mine? Still cookin’. Hopefully more soon.


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