Learn How It Works
A step-by-step breakdown showing how to launch an entrepreneurship program in your community
How to Bring LaunchMyCity to Your Community
The key to success is to form partnerships with local organizations and community leaders who are passionate about bringing opportunities for entrepreneurship to the underserved in your community.
Starting Your Project
Step 1: Identify the Need
Step 2: Select an Advisory Team
Pull together a team of visionaries that can help you bring this idea to life. The team might include leaders from the entrepreneurial community, Rotary Clubs, local community development experts and members of the minority group you hope to serve. Try to explore these initial questions:
- Who is our target audience?
- What services do we want to offer? Is it “Business Education/Mentors/Micro-loans/Networking ?
- How do we bring together smart local professionals to develop and implement these services?
- Where do we host student interviews, training classes and program events?
- When is a realistic timeline to roll out this program?
Step 3: Assign Roles and Responsibilities
Click to expand each item
Select a curriculum. Kauffman Foundation Fasttrac “Planning the Entrepreneurial Venture” is a free quality online option but requires them to certify your instructor. Students are told this program demands 3-5 hours of home study each week in addition to the 3 hours weekly class. (reference resource to be added)
Identify an instructor. Consider an instructor who is a successful entrepreneur and perhaps representative of the same ethnic community you’re serving.
Decide when to meet: Weeknights often are the best with sessions not to exceed 3 hours. If your class is made up of working adults, consider hosting the class for no more than 8 consecutive weeks. Beyond that timeframe, life just gets in the way and students may need to drop out.
Find a classroom: To encourage attendance, the location must offer convenient access for your students. LaunchRALEIGH was given access to a large classroom at no charge by a University partner. The space included an A/V Projector and large screen which was in use each week.
- Offer a free simple meal 30 minutes prior to class. Students are often coming directly from their day job and the food encourages attendance and builds camaraderie!
- Find Meal Sponsors. Your sponsors can either bring food for your class or can provide the money and a class leader will purchase prepared food.
Invite guest speakers: A local CPA, Public Relations and Branding Specialist, or perhaps speakers employed by your City discussing programs available to new businesses
Studies demonstrate that a strong mentor-mentee relationship can shorten the learning curve for success in a small business and provide deep satisfaction to both.
Mentor Candidates: Business professionals, successful entrepreneurs and energetic retirees can be good mentors.
Contact local SCORE office: they offer trained mentors. www.SCORE.org
Encourage Rotarians in area clubs to apply. Promote the need for mentors through the networks of your Advisory Committee.
Mentor Overview: It assumes that the mentee already possesses the basic technical skills to make their product or deliver their service. The mentor focuses on business perspective and guidance, personal development, and soft skills (download Mentor Roles & Responsibilities at the end of this section)
Mentor Selection: The website includes a tab for Mentors and an online Mentor application. A 20 minute conference call interview with 2-3 interviewers allows the team to better match mentor with mentee. Visit launchraleigh.org/mentor-application/ for an example (or download "Mentoring Overview" document at the end of this section)
Offering affordable loans to students often is what helps students move from dreamer to business owner. Loan pools can remain sustainable because the students’ monthly loan payments will replenish the fund for the next borrower!
Consider these Funding Sources:
Rotary Club contributions / Rotary District Grants
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI)
Kiva Microloan Application Tips (link)
- Loans are only available for students who have completed the training
- Interest rate should be very affordable: 0%-5%
- Loan Processing: This can be very complex and time consuming. Consider asking your financial partner to handle this.
- Loan example: A $2,500 loan spread over 18 months is $145/month and includes only $100 total in interest payments.
- Kiva’s online platform reaches over 100,000 potential lenders who love lending $25-$100 to support an entrepreneur. If the entrepreneur is supported by a community group that offers training and mentoring, over 95% of these borrowers will get funded within 30 days.
The goal is to provide a forum for students to continue to learn and to grow their business while surrounded by a network of people who can help them be successful. The very first networking that our Launch students discover is their classmates as they grow their business together and learn to trust one
another over the eight week class.
While you may want to create some brand new networking events, recognize there may already be lots of networking opportunities that exist in your community. Your role may evolve into becoming a Networking Resource Expert. Gather all the upcoming networking opportunities in your area and then
encourage your entrepreneurs to participate through regular emails or posts to a Facebook page. Make yourself a magnet for attracting local networking events from the Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Expo, local groups that serve entrepreneurs, special events hosted by Co-working Spaces and
Business Accelerators, and Rotary Club events. Promote these networking events regularly and encourage your graduates to attend together.
- Make it Fun. Invite interesting speakers to help boost attendance
- Consider offering a monthly program so students can put it on their calendar. For instance, “Fourth Friday Event” or “First Tuesday Event” every month.
- Invite not just your program graduates but include all students who have ever applied to your program. Also invite experienced entrepreneurs from the community you’re serving and also business and city leaders who might want to learn more about your program.
- Speakers might focus on cash flow, marketing, work/life balance, free business services available
Proposed agenda for a 90 minute Networking Events:
- 30 minutes of networking
- 30 minute educational presentation followed by a 15 minute Question & Answer
- 15 minutes of networking for whoever wants to stick around
Finding Community Partners
Community College or local University with a Small Business Center. Identify a professional deeply connected with the entrepreneurial community.
Community Development Partner
Rotary Club Partner
Rotary.org "Club Finder"
Click Here to Search for Rotary Clubs Near You
Financial Partner to help build a Loan Pool. Here are some options:
- Use local money generated by loans or your fundraising. Loan processing handled by your own volunteers.
- Identify a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in your area. These groups welcome your funds and then may match with funds of their own. CDFI’s offer direct investments in local projects to support entrepreneurs and may offer to handle all your loan processing. Click here to learn more about CDFI's
- Partner with Kiva.org – Their online platform has generated funding for over 1200 entrepreneurs in the United States. Kiva values working with local programs to identify worthy borrowers who can offer training and support while they offer funding and loan processing.
SCORE has over 300 chapters across the United States supported by 11,000 experienced business volunteers dedicated to helping businesses get off the ground and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. www.score.org
City leaders are always looking for new ways to nurture entrepreneurship in their community as they welcome vitality, tax revenue and new jobs these entrepreneurs bring. Your city or county may offer to provide meeting space, funding, PR support and speakers for your program.