A location to launch: Entrepreneurship resources in Midland

Eighty percent of businesses in the U.S. are considered small businesses, and statistically, a large majority of them fail in the first five years of operation. The world of entrepreneurship is tough and igniting an idea into reality takes preparation, a strong mentality, financial investment and a good amount of sweat equity. For entrepreneurs that have walked down this road, it can be tough and frustrating, but also tremendously rewarding. Fortunately for business owners in the Midland area, there are many opportunities to connect to platforms that not only provide resources, but perhaps most importantly, the supportive community that is so essential in creating long-term success.

The Midland Tomorrow Innovation Center (MTIC) is one such resource that aims to utilize innovation and creativity to serve members through workspaces, mentorship, virtual and physical programs and a community of like-minded individuals. To achieve this mission in a more holistic way, the Innovation Center recently changed locations to the Herbert D. Doan Midland County History Center on Main Street and also merged under the Midland Business Alliance.

Midland Tomorrow Innovation Center's community area

Becky Church, President and COO of Midland Tomorrow comments, “This was the perfect storm of events that allowed for the opportunity to step back and look at how we identify, incubate and foster new business start-ups in all sectors. It also gave us the chance to fully leverage resources across our Midland Chamber, SmartZone and Economic Development entities.”

Becky Church of the Midland Tomorrow Innovation Center

Taking on a student mentality to consistently improve and offer the highest quality services to the community, the MTIC is currently undergoing a visioning process, researching similar organizations across the country. Currently, the vision for the future includes building a strong pipeline of innovators in the area, a culture of creativity, a focus on community, physical and virtual trainings and a wide array of technical resources for businesses at every phase of growth.

Partnering with them in this endeavor is the Michigan Small Business Development Center. While they are two separate entities, they are working toward a communal vision to help small businesses flourish in the area. SBDC Consultant Patrick McElgunn says, “At the heart of the SBDC we help entrepreneurs start, run and grow small businesses through a variety of avenues.”

One of these options the SBDC offers is one-on-one, no cost, business consulting. What sets the organization apart is their relational approach. Aside from having graduate-level education, SBDC consultants are also entrepreneurs running businesses themselves. They’re able to coach individuals at every phase of starting a business from real-life experience, bringing experience and empathy to the conversation.

McElgunn comments on this process, “We sit down with the entrepreneur and look at their idea completely. We identify the experiences that their idea stemmed from, how it has been shaped, where they are at today and where they need to go. We talk about their goals for short and long-term growth and how they can take their business to the next level.”

Together in their partnership the MTIC and the SBDC are brainstorming ideas to expand upon their existing training portfolio. Together, the goal is to provide in-person workshops as well as webinar training for start-up and serial entrepreneurs alike. Topics will include everything from basics of starting a business, market analysis, securing funds, marketing strategies and financial guidance to set individual businesses up for long-term financial health. True to the existing culture, leaders of these topics will be industry experts who have gone through the process themselves and can provide wisdom from real life experiences.

One graduate who has already benefited from this ecosystem is Dustin Neumeyer, founding partner of Aberro Creative. Neumeyer and his founding partners learned about the Innovation Center through Northwood University. Together, they took advantage of different programs offered throughout the year such as innovator spotlights where entrepreneurs come in, share the story of turning an idea into a business and how they became successful through a variety of obstacles. Among other programs, the Innovation Center connected the team to mentors and resources. Neumeyer comments, “One of the biggest takeaways was the community and support.”

Dustin Neumeyer of Aberro Creative in the company's new space

Not only is the communal aspect beneficial for entrepreneurs like Neumeyer from the lens of like-minded mentality, but also through sharing different perspective and challenges. Any new business will experience ebbs and flows, but it was helpful to gain the community aspect along the way. Neumeyer reiterated how impactful it was to see others who had been in his position previously speak about overcoming challenges he and his partners faced early on at Aberro Creative.

Additionally, the team was able to build long-term relationships with their clients that propelled their business forward. Having spent four years working out of the Innovation Center’s workspace, they recently stepped out into their own office.

The Aberro team at work in the newly remodeled space

“While we were there, it was really about building relationships to get our business off the ground from our start-up phase to where we are now,” Neumeyer says. “The relationships we have with our clients have set us up for the success we’re experiencing. Being a service business, it really is all about building up that clientele. We learned the value in this early on with the center, and we’ve since been able to take it a step further to continue to grow.”

The newest member to the community, Energize Workspace is the most recent addition helping entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. In the process of transitioning to a nonprofit, Energize aims to foster a thriving location where collaboration, experimentation and meaningful relationships all take place.

Guided by the mantra, “Community Led, Community Powered, Community Funded,” Energize Workspace curates courses as well as events to meet the needs of the community they serve.

Co-founder Nic Von Schneider explains their approach, “We want to create events where people are actually learning. Our workshops provide information that people can take home with them and apply immediately. Everything from branding, design, investing, and tips on maximizing websites through typography and content. We also host business battles where people learn about ideation, pitch a business, collaborate and create positive community.”

Nic Von Schneider, co-founder of Energize Workspace

Energize Workspace already has eight events planned for next month with workshops, meetups and business battles all in the mix. Von Schneider says, “We want to get really engaged with the community and the best way to stay up to date on events is through our Facebook community.”

With all the resources in Midland serving as a valuable starting point for go-getters in the Tri-City area, it’s only a matter of time until those who are currently dreaming of an idea utilize this entrepreneurship ecosystem to launch the next big thing.