Economic Development and Small Business & Startups

Portal emerges to help start-ups

It will connect entrepreneurs with partner organizations that fit their needs.

September 19, 2014
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As the entrepreneurial spirit continues to flourish in West Michigan with new ideas, research, innovative technology and creativity taking root, a new initiative is using an online platform to connect individuals with business resources.

Emerge West Michigan, a new collaboration of more than 60 businesses and organizations providing resources for entrepreneurs, announced last week that it recently launched its online platform designed to inspire, nurture and promote the region’s entrepreneurial spirit and culture.

Headquartered at 234 N. Division Ave. in Grand Rapids, Emerge is a community-based initiative leveraging a web-based portal of information and tools with a regional network of partner organizations to support the growth and sustainability of creative startups and existing businesses.

Emerge incorporates multiple resources for entrepreneurs such as: upcoming events and workshops on a variety of business topics; an interactive map and directory of businesses and organizations throughout West Michigan; links for business, law, compliance and marketing information; and site tools to assist in connecting with the right partner to support business growth.

Laurie Supinski, director of Emerge, said the web portal will help entrepreneurs locate partner organizations that might be able to assist them, based on specific needs listed in Emerge’s partner resource finder.

“They will put what stage of business they are in — whether they are just at the idea and startup phase, or a little bit further down the road — and they can indicate what kind of business it is,” said Supinski. “Then they will input the type of help they need. … It will sort through the partners on the system and pull up a list of partner organizations that meet that entrepreneur’s needs.”

The entrepreneur can then either contact the partner organization directly, or connect with them through Emerge. If the business is not the correct fit for the entrepreneur or small business owner, the hope is the partner organizations will direct them to another resource engaged with Emerge, according to Supinski.

“We would really like them to come through Emerge so we could help them connect with the right partners. If the entrepreneur engages with one partner, and that might not be the right fit … the idea is that referral will happen,” said Supinski, in reference to information sharing among partner organizations.

“Having that network of partners intricately knowledgeable about what all the other organizations in West Michigan are doing will be really helpful to keep that entrepreneur in the system and working toward finding all the help they need.”

Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and a leader involved with Emerge since its development, said in the press release that entrepreneurs have the power to catapult West Michigan forward.

Another initial partner organization involved in Emerge is Talent 2025, a Grand Rapids-based effort to improve quality and quantity of regional talent.

Kevin Stotts, president of Talent 2025, said there was a need in West Michigan’s entrepreneurial efforts for a central platform of resources regarding all aspects of the startup process.

“This website fills this gap by linking entrepreneurs across West Michigan to a wide range of outstanding resources to help them start or grow a new business,” Stotts said in the release.

With a goal of becoming a hub of information and activity for entrepreneurs, Supinksi said Emerge’s online platform will grow over time as additional partners, content, resource information and success stories are added to the web portal.

“We want West Michigan to be known for its entrepreneurial culture. We want people to be able to easily access the help that they need,” said Supinski.

“We don’t want them to feel like there is nobody out there willing to help, so we hope by providing all of these resources, we can really start to grow more businesses — take things from the bottom up and really start to help make new businesses successful, create talent and attract talent.”

With more than 60 organizations engaged in the community initiative, Supinski said the collaboration has a foundation of educational institutions, economic development offices, chambers of commerce and funding institutions. Although not all of the organizations are currently listed on the website due to its recent launch, the interest in Emerge continues to grow, according to Supinski.

“It just keeps increasing. Our goal is to continually reach out and bring all of the partners who provide services for entrepreneurs — and that is not just in Grand Rapids, but also on the lakeshore and Muskegon,” said Supinksi. “We are bringing Holland into the picture, we reach up north to Newaygo County and the Ludington area, and we are really trying to encompass the whole 13-county region that comprises West Michigan.”

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