Envision Greater Fond du Lac completed deliverables relative to a Department of Defense federal grant at the end of 2018. Starting in 2016, the organization was tasked with creating the Regional Entrepreneurial Development System (REDS) for the I-41 Corridor region, encompassing the communities within the counties of Fond du Lac, Winnebago, Calumet, Brown, and Outagamie. As the project expressed, REDS was “envisioned to be a regional comprehensive collaboration of entrepreneurial support providers who offer a seamless platform for both traditional and non-traditional entrepreneurs.”
Envision Greater Fond du Lac was a sub-recipient of the Initiative 41 project and was responsible for the development, implementation, and monitoring of the REDS. The REDS was comprised of a variety of tasks, including: development of an inventory of resources in a sustainable matrix document, the inclusion of an online assessment tool, enhancements to a tracking system and web toolkit, training opportunities of resource providers, soliciting feedback from regional entrepreneurial partners across the I-41 Corridor area, and developing a Regional Innovation Network (RIN).
The model of these deliverables began within the framework of the IGNITE! Business Success entrepreneurial resource network of Fond du Lac County. From there, staff worked to understand the various needs of the regional communities by hosting meetings and having discussions with the various potential stakeholders.
This grant project served the important purpose of bringing together entrepreneurial development agencies across this area of Wisconsin in an effort to provide even more collaborative services to our area’s innovation community.
The following is a breakdown of the main tasks executed to complete the deliverables of the grant and the outcomes:
- Sustainable Resource Matrix: In partnership with East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (ECWRPC), Envision Greater Fond du Lac developed a matrix of organizations and programming that represented the I-41 Corridor communities in the following categories: economic development, talent, and entrepreneurship and small business development. The key finding of the matrix was that there were no glaring functional gaps within the Corridor for entrepreneurial services and each County is well represented with service offerings. The full matrix can be viewed by visiting Initiative41.org and reviewing the “Driving the Future” document.
- Online Assessment Tool: SizeUp is a user-friendly tool that assists entrepreneurs in determining the viability of their idea based off of a number of market data points including: demographics, competition, and when the business started. The tool can also provide information on the best way to advertise a new business, as well as provide maps of customers and suppliers within the area. SizeUp is available to all communities within the I-41 Corridor region (those based in the counties of Fond du Lac, Winnebago, Calumet, Brown, and Outagamie) and is located at ignitefdlc.com/sizeup.
- Tracking System and Web Toolkit: Fond du Lac County, through its IGNITE! entrepreneurial system, served as the pilot program for enhanced tracking of entrepreneur’s progress and success. Additional questions were asked of entrepreneurs to facilitate quicker movement within the network and increase understanding of the business concept for business coaches to review. Entrepreneurs are able to upload documents and track their progress in a secure web-based portal built by local business, wisnet.com. Entrepreneurial resource providers have increased capabilities of tagging one another in notes, setting reminders, and reporting on the entrepreneurial activity within the community. Entrepreneurs are able to begin their journey and receive quality support from the Fond du Lac County network by visiting ignitefdlc.com and clicking “Getting Started”.
- Training for Resource Providers: Envision Greater Fond du Lac held numerous meetings with regional partners throughout the course of the grant period outlining the entrepreneurial resource network framework in Fond du Lac as an example for how regionalism could be applied to the format. Additionally, regional entrepreneurial service providers were trained on the tracking system and web toolkit, giving them an opportunity to evaluate the system for usage within their communities. IGNITE! Business Success of Fond du Lac County continues to be the example for additional communities to work towards entrepreneurial resource provider collaboration and will continue to be into the future.
- Regional Inclusion: The tracking system built for entrepreneurial assessment and tool management is able to work throughout additional communities along the counties of Fond du Lac, Winnebago, Calumet, Brown, and Outagamie with regions being able to house data on their own area’s entrepreneurs. Regions along I-41 have been provided the opportunity to review the system and work within their organizations to decide how they will utilize the system. Any organization along I-41 interested in utilizing the system for their entrepreneurial intake and reporting should contact Sarah Spang at Envision Greater Fond du Lac at 920-921-9500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Regional Innovation Network: The Regional Innovation Network (RIN) was an outreach tool developed to increase awareness of entrepreneurial events along the I-41 Corridor that were all within a short distance from one another. The RIN combined data from the Startup Wisconsin Week initiative and showcased over 40 events occurring along I-41, including events in Fond du Lac, Appleton, and Green Bay.