A few weeks ago I was introduced by Lorraine Ball (President of @roundpeg) to an economic development initiative in Hamilton County called the Entrepreneurship Advancement Center. Cathy Langlois, Executive director of EAC (@go_eac), was kind enough to answer a few questions about EAC, which you will find below. They have a number of great initiative to advance entrepreneurship in Hamilton County, including a business plan competition that culminates with the winner receiving a package of professional consulting services. If you are an entrepreneur or small business in Hamilton County, make sure you check out EAC!
Can you give us a little background about the EAC?
The Entrepreneurship Advancement Center (EAC) started as an initiative of the Hamilton County Alliance (HCA), the county’s economic development organization. HCA had a study done on Hamilton County for the purpose of developing an entrepreneurial strategy for economic development. The study recommended a number of actions and the HCA board decided to support entrepreneurship education in the high schools. In 2009, the HCA board suggested expanding the initiative and decided to spin-off the initiative into its own 501(c)3. EAC became its own organization on January 1, 2010 with a mission to foster and advance entrepreneurship with a focus on Hamilton County.
How does the EAC help entrepreneurs?
EAC is a central point of contact for anyone interested in starting a business or growing an existing small business. EAC recognizes that there are many good resources and organizations that already exist to help businesses get started and our role it to connect people to those resources. When we see gaps in resources, we will fill them. In our first year, we have offered education programs and networking events. In addition, we connected business owners to other business owners or service providers that they need to start or grow their businesses. For example, we connected the three finalists in our business plan competition to people who could help them refine their business ideas. All three finalists felt that the people they talked with provided guidance and suggestions that greatly strengthened their business plans. We also had businesses pitch to our board members and if the board members had a connection they felt would benefit those businesses, they connected them.
Tell us about the Business Plan Competition the EAC hosts.
The competition is open to any new business or existing small business that wants to grow. The business owners develop a business plan to be submitted in the first round with the top plans selected as finalists. In the 2010 competition, there were 3 finalists. The finalists were connected to one or more business leaders who could help them revise and improve their plans. The revised business plans were resubmitted to be evaluated by a panel of 3 business professionals. The finalists also made a presentation to the panel as if they were asking for funding for their businesses. The plan that received the top score on the written plan and the pitch received a consulting services package to help them with their business. The services included legal from Baker & Daniels, accounting from Katz, Sapper, & Miller, business management from The Anker Consulting Group, marketing from Roundpeg, and IT from L5 Solutions.
The 2010 winner was Beth Johnson from Fish Face Photo.
Any EAC events or programs coming up that you would like share?
March 8: Networking event in Noblesville
April 19: Business Killers seminar led by WestPoint Financial Services
Watch the website for details on:
The second annual business plan competition.
A fall program on the economic forecast.
In your opinion, what makes Indiana a great place to start a business?
In my opinion, Indiana has been focused on entrepreneurship especially in for the past 5 years or so. There are efforts in various industry sectors to develop business ideas, especially in the tech sector. There are also strong entrepreneurs living in Indiana that attract others. For example, Scott Jones, ChaCha, has been critical to the advancing tech efforts in Indiana. Indiana also has excellent resources in the universities–Indiana, Purdue, Ball State, and Butler to name just a few. These institutions have made valuable contributions to creating an entrepreneurial culture in Indiana.