Say you want to become a captain of industry, but you don’t quite know where to start. You’re fired up about a can’t-miss business idea, yet you aren’t sure how to get from point A—a great concept—to points X, Y and Z, profits galore and growth, reinvestment and more growth. Where does a budding entrepreneur go for some help in the Capital Region?
There have been programs in place for years to school local innovators on the nitty-gritty of launching a company, and there are new opportunities to delve into the details of turning inspiration into income. Here are some options for incipient Baton Rouge entrepreneurs:
Emerging Entrepreneurs Institute
The Emerging Entrepreneurs Institute targets extreme beginners—high school students who want to get a real headstart on enterprise. Starting next month, 10 incoming sophomores who get involved will study financial literacy and eventually take part in an internship project, returning the next few summers for new adventures in marketing and branding, leadership development and community reinvestment. The EEI, begun by the Baton Rouge Black Chamber of Commerce, is intended to “have a positive impact on the Baton Rouge community” and to incline departing college students to return to the area and use their skills to build on the local economy. For more information, visit ephodnet.com/EEI/.
The newest kid on the block is Entrepreneur Rising, a series of workshops spearheaded by Louis DeAngelo, owner of the eponymous restaurants and a food wholesaler. DeAngelo says he came to Baton Rouge about two decades ago from New Jersey and instinctively became an entrepreneur by capitalizing on a little dough, cheese and tomato sauce. Today he coaches youngsters and others who are learning the ropes of business, and he plans to formalize an assistance program with three to four “boot camp” sessions for about 25 people starting mid-month and running through August. “My goal is to improve the business landscape of Baton Rouge,” he says. “Big companies and big government aren’t going to be the impetus behind change and improvement. I want to make entrepreneurship as exciting and interesting as LSU athletics.” He says he will stress the nonacademic, real-life side of business by focusing on “self leadership and people leadership” rather than the nuances of marketing and financials. “I’ve always been a people person,” he says. For more information, visit? entrepreneurrising.com.
Louisiana Business ?& Technology Center
LBTC, which is part of LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business, is a big dog in the hunt for entrepreneur assistance, and Executive Director Charlie D’Agostino says three companies are in its incubator program, which lets LSU students start a firm before they graduate. Red Six Media is a startup advertising agency, Classes on Demand is a college classroom note-sharing enterprise, and SkyHawk is a 24-hour monitoring option for lumberyard owners and other outside storage operators. For more information, visit bus.lsu.edu/lbtc.
Louisiana Small Business Development Center
LSBDC “provides low- or no-cost guidance and training for small business owners and potential owners” and is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, LED and LSU. D’Agostino says it offers “pre-venture workshops” for those who are grinding out a day job but want to put in extra hours to develop their dream business. The center’s Fast-Track program is a 10-week course that offers intense lessons in completing a business plan that will withstand bank and investor scrutiny for funding, selling products via the Internet to otherwise inaccessible markets, and other useful strategies. For more information, visit lsbdc.org.
A pilot program launched last month gives business beginners a QuickSTART, albeit an intense one, in launching a company. Offered by SCORE Baton Rouge, the local chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business, the QuickSTART Program begins with a session that queries, “Are you really prepared to go into business?” says Harold Penton, second vice chairman for the group. From there, participants attend sessions on honing ideas, doing a competitive assessment and analyzing one’s financial state, marketing and product research, delving into accounting, and approaching banks and outside investors for funding. Penton says 29 people came to the first session, and six decided to take a “deeper dive” into entrepreneurship through the rest of the program. Another program round was set to begin early this month, and a third is planned for fall. For more information, visit scorebr.org.
Sable International hosts a yearly entrepreneur training class in partnership with Louisiana Economic Development’s Small and Emerging Business Development Program. The six sessions are “an interactive laboratory for entrepreneurs and to help small- to medium-sized-business owners focus on improving their operations, learn marketing strategies and develop a viable business plan.” Eric Lewis, managing partner of Sable, says the next round will likely begin in February or March 2011. The cost this year was $650, $150 for SEBD program-certified members. For more information, visit sableint.net.
Society for Emerging Networkers and Serial?Entrepreneurs
SeNSE, begun in August, brings together students from LSU and Southern University, business people who are looking to engender economic growth, and mentoring agencies such as the state-run Louisiana Technology Park. The key innovation for SeNSE has been periodic “pitch nights,” where people outline their business concepts and get feedback from veteran entrepreneurs about how to fine-tune marketing plans and seek investment capital. “When I came here, I was like, where do I go?” says founder Sean Simone, an LSU student from Mandeville who sought to formulate the “glue” to unite would-be innovators with technology incubators and other resources. “The need was obvious to me, maybe from being an outsider. Mentorship is a big deal, and I think just a lot of people forget where they came from, that people mentored them to get to the place where they’re at. You have all these business networking groups, but there’s a big age gap. I’m trying to pretty much bridge that gap.” For more information, visit brentrepreneur.ning.com.