Agencies Assist GR's Entrepreneurial Status

October 23, 2006
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The past several years various and numerous publications have given the Grand Rapids metro area one distinction or another. USA Today ranked the city as the top “hotbed” for entrepreneurial activity, Wall Street Journal more recently noted Grand Rapids as one of the top 20 “Up and Comers in Innovation” and Grand Rapids ranked higher than Detroit or Ann Arbor in Entrepreneur magazine’s best city for entrepreneurs to do business. These accolades have come despite a historic lack of venture capital (not counting such considerations in area church basements) and immense, inherent difficulties in getting new products or services to market.

The report on last week’s Invention Perfection open house, however, provides evidence of the importance of regional groups formed to give would-be entrepreneurs the assistance they need to succeed. Invention Perfection is itself entrepreneurial, providing guidance for new product development before an inventor or entrepreneur begins the patent process. The business works with area groups providing basic training to new business owners.

Invention Perfection showcased eight new entrepreneurs, each of whom began to define their businesses through area agencies.

Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women is among the oldest such agencies in the community, and isn’t often known by its name, but rather by the word “GROW.”

The Michigan Small Business Technology Development Center at Grand Valley State University assisted four of the eight inventors.

The Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs provided the meeting at which Invention Perfection and a Lowell inventor met.

Grand Rapids Jaycees was the setting for another such meeting.

Area patent attorneys also provide the link for the aspiring entrepreneurs and the groups that can assist building the business.

The story is as much about the community raising entrepreneurs as it is about the inventors now holding or awaiting patents. Equally important is the fact that the agencies are working with one another and making further connections with state economic development agencies, investors and other sources of funding.

Further, the inventive spirit and example of it stimulates other thoughts and ideas. The progression is becoming more obvious at large, well-established regional businesses involved in medical product development, engineering concepts and technology advances. Those established businesses may even offer the “market” needed by those who have a new or better idea for products and services.

These relationships best define what it means to be an “entrepreneurial community.”    

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