Potential entrepreneurs focus of Idea Accelerator program

·3 min read

May 17—An opportunity that could help entrepreneurs or business owners bring a creative venture to life is available to Joplin residents as part of the national Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator program to foster community growth.

New entrepreneurs and small-business owners say one of their most difficult challenges is finding access to capital. The goal of the Idea Accelerator program is to remove those financial barriers.

"Of the 350 million adults in the U.S., 3 in 5 have a business idea," said Doug Hunt, director of entrepreneurship at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. "Yet in the last 12 months, only 9,000 ideas or new startups were seeded with original seed money or venture capital dollars to get started. We also know that the sector creating the most jobs, like 80% of new jobs, are startups that are 3 years old or younger. You can look at all of those numbers and ask, 'Where do we need to be putting our resources?'"

This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.

This will be the first time the Idea Accelerator program is offered in Missouri. Local supporters involved with the project include MOKAN Partnership, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and its foundation, Arvest Bank-Joplin, Commerce Bank, Mercy Hospital, Mid-Missouri Bank and Anderson Engineering.

The Idea Accelerator is a component of Heartland Forward's Community Growth Program, which leads and supports heartland communities with a transformative and modernized approach to problem-solving, organizers said.

"This is a huge value-add to our entrepreneurial and small business development efforts," Tony Robyn, executive director of MOKAN Partnership/Joplin Chamber interim co-president, said in a statement. "We are always looking for additional tools and partners like Heartland Forward to help our business startup community keep pace with the growth we are seeing here."

Applications open

Applications for the summer 2022 cohort are now open. Joplin residents who have an innovative idea for solving issues facing the Joplin area can submit an online application by May 30. Selected winners will participate in a two-month virtual program this summer.

Those selected will be supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas and will be mentored by Master Builders throughout the program. Builders learn and apply world-class entrepreneurial ways to run short, high-impact tests of their ideas.

"The concept is to have anybody who has a business idea to submit an application, and then during that process, they may be selected to go through a 90-day training program to see if their business idea has some stickiness or if it's viable enough to move to the next level," Hunt said. "It's an exciting thing for people with a business idea, entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs to step into the space without any risk to see if they have entrepreneurial wings."

Joplin has reserved 10 spots for residents to join the national Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator program to build a summer cohort of builders. Other states that have completed the program this month are Iowa, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Hunt said Joplin is the smallest community participating in the program.

"Problem solving with an entrepreneurial mindset will be key to rebuilding our post-COVID local economies, and our Community Growth Program and Toolkit has already proven to be a successful, meaningful way to accelerate the entrepreneurial thinking needed to help our communities thrive," said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward, in a statement.

The Idea Accelerator program is led by Builders + Backers, a capital venture and accelerator firm based in Washington, D.C., that invests in entrepreneurs who are building global-scale ventures.

For more information or to apply for the program, visit https://www.buildersandbackers.com/idea-accelerator-learn- more.