Like most of you, I was happy to see 2021 in the rearview mirror. The past two years have been filled with unprecedented challenges that have impacted all of us on both a professional and a personal level. For small businesses, everything feels unsettled and finding a clear path forward seems more difficult than ever before.
At the Entrepreneurs’ Center, I and my team of talented, dedicated professionals have the privilege of serving and supporting more than 800 small businesses across our region. We have a front row seat to the incredibly resilient, gritty and determined entrepreneurs in our community. I can assure you that the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving and small businesses in our region are succeeding at unprecedented levels. Revenues are up, third party investments are increasing and our community is recognized as a great place to start a business.
As 2022 begins, here are three principles that we share with the small businesses we support:
1. Find Your Customer – And Talk to Them! Sounds obvious, right? Unfortunately, in our experience, many companies fail because they build a product or launch a business before they understand who their customer really is – and, more importantly, what they really want or need. In our hyper-connected world, it’s in some ways easier than ever to understand potential customers. Social media, online reviews, articles and online information is readily available. These channels are invaluable in monitoring and soliciting customer feedback. Once you’ve identified your customers, make sure you engage with them. If they are interested in what you are offering, they will be just as interested in making that offering better.
2. Embrace Diversity – It Will Make Your Business Better: Successful small businesses understand the value of diversity, and for them, it’s more than just a catchy slogan. Research shows that companies with diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue; gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to outperform their competitors; ethnically diverse companies are 33% more likely to outperform their competitors; and diverse teams make decisions twice as fast and deliver 60% better results.
That’s why diversity and inclusion is a strategic imperative for the Entrepreneurs’ Center, and why we are proud to join the University of Dayton in launching the Greater West Dayton Incubator. Located in West Dayton, the GWDI is a pathway for entrepreneurs and innovators into the region’s startup resources and ecosystem, including micro-lending services, networking opportunities, training, education and other supportive services.
3. Never Forget – You Are Not Alone: The entrepreneurial journey can be lonely, but there isn’t a better place to start than in the Dayton region. Our community is fortunate to have a large number of organizations that exist to support small businesses. The Entrepreneurs’ Center is a proud member of the Launch Dayton network. Almost every need that a small business might have can be met by members of our network.
And as we begin 2022, I am proud to announce that the Entrepreneurs’ Center has launched the Rotunda Fund, a revenue-based investment fund for Dayton-area entrepreneurs and small businesses. Unlike many investments, the Rotunda Fund does not require entrepreneurs to give up a percentage of their companies. Instead, the investment is paid back monthly as a negotiated percentage of sales. It is an exciting development for founders who don’t have friends and family that can invest, don’t have collateral, or are at their credit limit but still need funds to grow.
For visible proof of the resources available, and for a reminder that our heritage and history of innovation is alive and well, be sure to check out the Arcade Innovation Hub, powered by PNC Bank. The Entrepreneurs’ Center and the University of Dayton founded the Hub to be a space dedicated to utilizing the intersection of higher education, innovation, and support services to create, launch and mentor new business ventures. The Hub houses all the centralized services and amenities an entrepreneur needs to grow and be successful. You don’t have to do it alone.
So, here’s to all the entrepreneurs, innovators and small business that will continue to lead the charge for our region’s economic prosperity in 2022. As a community, let’s not look backwards – we aren’t going in that direction!
Scott Koorndyk is the president of The Entrepreneurs’ Center.