How leaders hope a new one-stop shop can bring more founders to the table
When you’re an entrepreneur, very few questions have obvious answers. What should be your next step? Who should you ask for advice? Is this a good business decision? When making these choices, a founder will encounter a wide range of advice, so how can they be expected to choose the right path? For the startup experts at JumpStart, the answer is the new Entrepreneur Roadmap, a playbook to help Ohio’s tech entrepreneurs launch and grow their startups. The program is easy to enter, with a quick online form being the simple start to the process.
“We work with a lot of companies who are in the earliest stages of their startup and a lot of these entrepreneurs are doing this for the first time,” said Heather Hall, JumpStart’s Entrepreneur in Residence. “They’re not 100 percent sure where to start, and we hear similar questions. It made us wonder if there is some standard approach that we should be taking to help guide these entrepreneurs to make sure that they’re having a consistent experience. That way, if you and I are both working with companies at the same time, we’re guiding them in the same way. We pulled together a several companies that we’ve worked with at varying stages and said, ‘Tell us about your experience in starting a company. Where is the struggle? What do you wish you knew now that you didn’t then?’”
The result was the Entrepreneur Roadmap, which serves as a centralized location for one-on-one business advising, workshops, programs, templates, tools and other resources. The roadmap supports companies in four different stages: ideation, development, launch and acceleration. During the ideation phase, companies show their value and identify a market and price point. During development, products are created based on a market’s needs. The launch phase pursues customers and establishes a value proposition. Finally, when a company has launched, JumpStart’s acceleration phase helps them grow and thrive.
Throughout each of these stages, different sets of goals and outputs come from activities meant to lead entrepreneurs along the path. Goals of the ideation stage, for instance, are the ability to articulate your concept or validate your market. Outputs of the development stage include building a website, writing an executive summary and pitch deck and creating a financial model. Activities that are part of the launch stage cover topics like leveraging customer support, preparing a fundraising strategy and targeting buyers through a customer acquisition strategy.
“The Entrepreneur Roadmap acts as a central directory for many valuable tools that entrepreneurs can use to effectively build their company,” said Youngstown-based JuggerBot 3D CEO Dan Fernback, who has worked with JumpStart programs in the past. “It’s absolutely needed – there are resources available that offer similar lessons and tools, but rarely in one place where each resource coincides with the rest. It does a good job being relevant to a number of different companies while allowing the sequence of events to change on a case-by-case basis. When you’re fully immersed in the details of your company, it can be difficult to clearly layout a winning strategy. The Roadmap is a north star.”
But JumpStart doesn’t want the Roadmap to be a cookie-cutter approach to startups. They’re very aware that each individual company is different, and are ensuring that between the wealth of resources and advisers at their disposal, each company will still get advice and help that’s catered to their needs.
“The ability to have a consistent lexicon and approach is important so that we know that if a company is at this stage, they need to do X, Y and Z,” said Hall. “Not only is the company very clear of what comes next, they know that they can get resources to support them. Of course it is still going to be dynamic but we want to help navigate them to the same point. This will help the entrepreneur ensure that they’re moving in the right direction.”
In a year in which inclusivity has taken center stage, Hall said the Roadmap can serve as a way to bring a more diverse group of underserved entrepreneurs into JumpStart’s network. The beauty of the program, she said, is that it can be as applicable to someone starting a business at home as it is to a veteran entrepreneur founding a full-fledged company.
“There’s the old saying, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’ and this is a safe space to ask questions and learn,” she said. “I’ve been likening it to a playbook where I can look to say, ‘I’m in this situation, or I’m going into this tech business. Here’s what I need to be aware of.’ It creates that awareness so that you can see what’s coming or start to anticipate it. Everybody comes to entrepreneurship a different way. I may be all-in and starting a company whereas, for you, this could be a side hustle. There are one-on-one resources available for all types, and it’s very much about giving people what they need.”