Saturday, January 21, 2006

Grassfire flames
of emerging enterprises

A nice survey just spotted you.

While you may not be living in Wisconsin, I'm convinced these numbers apply most everywhere. There is a huge movement toward personal involvement in new and emerging enterprises.

If you're not thinking about participating, you should be.

A study released last week by the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network said the following:

"MADISON, Wis.— Roughly half the people in Wisconsin are thinking about starting a business or have started a business, according to a new study of the state’s entrepreneurial climate. The study, “A Medium for Growth: The State of Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin,” reported the strikingly high figures after surveying 1,144 randomly selected households across the state last year."

“In our study, the level of interest in entrepreneurship at the grass roots level in Wisconsin was encouraging,” said Erica Kauten, managing director of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network and state director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC)."

"The University of Wisconsin-Extension in conjunction with the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network (WEN) and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce launched the research, led by project manager Susan Yolton, to measure the entrepreneurial mood in the state."

I'm sure you'd find similar numbers of people thinking about their own business wherever you looked. Why wouldn't people explore the idea of creating or joining an emerging enterprise?

Of course, the risk is money. Money is critical, and ultimately its what makes these enterprises sustainable.

But for most of us there is also a great risk in assuming that someone else is going to make a job for you.

Participating in this wonderfully chaotic and wildly accessible free enterprise system is something you ignore at your peril.

Among the most interesting findings from the new entrepreneurship study were:

• "Roughly half of the people in Wisconsin are or have been involved in the Entrepreneurial Process -- they are thinking about starting a business or have started a business."

• "Among people involved in the Entrepreneurial Process, there is a low level of awareness and usage of assistance programs across a wide variety of topics."

The definition of entrepreneurship included starting an enterprise while holding full-time employment.

The second finding, about the lack of awareness of assistance programs is important. There are many support agencies with great people and tools available to you. Search them out. Ask around. Research them on the web. Knock on their doors and use them.

However, you need to pick your support programs in the right order.

While many programs are set up to do financing, don't start there. I believe you need to first flush out your markets and get cash flow moving on its own. It doesn't have to be huge, but you have to prove your market first. Without that, all the start up funding you could ever locate won't matter.

I suggest you look first to assistance programs that offer advice and mentoring. There are wonderful public and private organizations everywhere promoting and supporting the world of emerging enterprises. This level of support is typically free or readily available.

Do your homework. Get your feet wet. First look to the support organizations that can help your planning skills. They're there. Don't go for money. Go for the smarts. Plan small. Prove out your market. Make lots of small mistakes. Get cash flow moving. With that in place the next financing steps will be available. Without those in place, it won't be.

From there, I wish you nothing but a fair wind at your back.

The rest of us are with you, friend, fanning the grassfire flames of your emerging enterprise.

Check out the entrepreneurship study at the Wisconsin Entrepreneur's Network site

Wisconsin's excellent Small Business Development Center

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