Blog: Diane Durance

And the winner is... Diane Durance, executive director of Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest, is here this week to discuss the GLEQ business plan competition for aspiring entrepreneurs. In June, one start-up will win the $100K SmartZone award. In a time when there's talk of taking the nickel out of nickels, a few Gs can mean the difference between boom or bust.

Post 3: The Road Map to Michigan Resources

Picking up where I left off yesterday...I hope you agree that most of us have The Right Stuff to become entrepreneurs. But that doesn't mean it's smart to go it alone or go at it unprepared. And in Michigan, there's no excuse for doing either.

Our state is jam-packed with opportunities to participate in entrepreneurial education, connect with coaches and mentors, join  industry and business development organizations, and meet potential investors, partners, and customers. The trick is to find those opportunities. Think I'm exaggerating?

Several years ago at the Ann Arbor IT Zone, my staff and I started developing a "Roadmap to Resources" -- just for Washtenaw County-based entrepreneurs. That seemingly reasonable task mushroomed and morphed into a never-ending project without a glimmer of hope it would ever be complete or accurate.

Imagine my glee when the Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently  announced Michigan Business One Stop - Your source for doing business! Yippie! A statewide Resource Navigator for entrepreneurs. An electronic resource directory that assists entrepreneurs in identifying resources for technology, education and financial support by location.  A front door to services and information. An answer to the question, "Where do I begin?"

Wait...there's more. in Michigan have another option. The recently-launched Moving Ideas to Market (MI2M) web portal features links to statewide entrepreneurship resources, training materials, articles, videos, events, and announcements. (MI2M is a C.S. Mott funded initiative managed by the Prima Civitas Foundation and led by a dynamic network of 50+ volunteers comprised of Michigan entrepreneurs and support organizations, including GLEQ.)?  ?My favorite section -- the monthly calendar of entrepreneurial events. The GLEQ  calendar lists 75+ educational and networking events throughout the state. We e-mail the calendar to 8,000 members of the entrepreneurial community at the beginning of each month -- now MI2M will be keeping it up to date throughout the month in an easy-to-read calendar format. You'll see a convenient link to the MI2M web portal calendar in my future mailings.

Granted, the MEDC and MI2M websites are works-in-progress and far from perfect, but let's applaud these ambitious stabs at organizing our complex and growing array of resources.

I can't leave this topic without pointing out a few resources you should know about. And I'll apologize in advance for failing to do justice to the many other events, programs and organizations around the state -- there are just too many to name (hence the need for web portals).

If you haven't already, get in touch with your local SBTDC office and SmartZone:

Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Centers (MI-SBTDC) - There are offices around the state hosting an extensive array of education programs and providing one-on-one consulting services for businesses of all types.

Michigan Network of SmartZones - A network of 15 business development organizations providing educational programs, business accelerator support, and incubator services to start-up technology ventures. Many are located near universities. SmartZones in Southeast Michigan include Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley, OU Incubator, and WSU TechTown. A complete list of SmartZones is available here.

Other resources that I encourage you to explore include:

Universities and Colleges - almost all have added or are adding entrepreneurial programs.

MSU Extension - offices around the state offer advice on food product, biofuel, and agricultural businesses.

Trade Associations and Local Business Membership Organizations - Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), local Chambers of Commerce, Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce, German Chamber of Commerce, MichBio (for life sciences are bio-related businesses), Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association

Specialized Services and Education Programs - Biotechnology Business Consultants (for assistance with federal grant applications), NextEnergy (support services for alternative energy technology ventures), Ann Arbor SPARK Boot Camp, FastTrac TechVenture and New Venture programs, Tech Town Smart Start, Bizdom U, Lakeshore Advantage Momentum, GLEQ Business Plan Competition.

Business Development Forums and Organizations: New Enterprise Forum (NEF), TiE Detroit, Entrepreneurial Initiative for Southeast Michigan (EISEM), Jumpstart (part of MI2M), and MIT Enterprise Forum.

Don't worry about where to begin -- start anywhere -- and we'll help you plot your venture's best Roadmap to Resources.