Innovation DuPage Now Accepting Applications From Entrepreneurs and Business Owners
By Brian Kleemann
Entrepreneurs looking to implement their ideas and business owners who want to reach the next level can now submit applications to Innovation DuPage and one of its partners, DuPage Impact LLC – with the latter providing funding up to $100,000 for select applicants.
Innovation DuPage, the new business incubator and accelerator at College of DuPage, connects small businesses with the necessary resources to thrive and stimulate job growth. Clients will have the opportunity to learn through idea sharing, mentoring and hands-on workshops as well as future workspace access.
Dr. Ann Rondeau, President of College of DuPage, said guiding emerging entrepreneurs and local business owners during their early stages will help them become an integral part of the local workforce.
“Innovation DuPage is taking the collective knowledge and resources of several entities and creating a strong base that ultimately will boost regional economic development,” she said. “Now that applications are being accepted, we’re looking forward to meeting and working with the first groups of clients and seeing how their visions can transform the business landscape.”
Two applications are being accepted. The first is being accepted through Innovation DuPage partner DuPage Impact LLC, a private investor group that is looking to fund and develop social impact entrepreneurs. Paul LeFort, co-founder of DuPage Impact LLC with Tom Wendorf, said funding may be available for both startup-stage and early-stage for-profit companies.
“Startup-stage companies generally have a concept for a product or service and are developing a business plan. We can provide some clients with initial funding of $25,000 as well as an intensive Boot Camp that will help companies build their product or service,” LeFort said. “Early-stage companies have already developed a clear product or service, and we can provide customized services based upon their specific needs as well as help them receive up to $100,000 in funding.”
LeFort said it was important to include social impact as part of the criteria for startup-stage and early-stage participants.
“DuPage County has a robust business community that can support growing social impact enterprises,” Wendorf said. “We can provide experienced mentors and a collaborative environment that will help participants create thriving enterprises that are financially sound and making a difference.”
The second application is for the Accelerator Cohort Program, aimed at small business owners who have been operating for at least two years, show revenues of $200,000 or more in the most recent fiscal year and employ a minimum of two employees. The 12-week cohort starts Monday, Feb. 12, and consists of lectures, peer-to-peer structured sessions and customized business coaching from mentors and staff. Companies that do not meet the accelerator criteria will still be able to benefit from incubation events, workshops and mentoring.
Rita Haake, Manager of the Center for Entrepreneurship at College of DuPage, said one of the many benefits of the Accelerator Cohort Program is helping participants create a business growth plan.
“We want participants to learn how to work on their businesses and not just in their businesses,” she said. “We’re taking them from business owners and operators to CEOs.”
College of DuPage began its workforce development efforts with the establishment of the Business and Professional Institute (now Business Solution) in 1979 and the Center for Workforce Development (now the Center for Entrepreneurship) in 1984. Since 1994, the Center for Entrepreneurship has supported more than $1.2 billion in regional economic development. In FY15 and FY16, the Center for Entrepreneurship helped businesses procure $192 million in contracts, $4.7 million in exports, and $9.5 million in capital and loans.
In developing Innovation DuPage, College of DuPage worked closely with partners Choose DuPage, Rev3, Benedictine University, DuPage Impact and the Village of Glen Ellyn. Joseph Cassidy, Dean of Continuing Education at College of DuPage, said the College is uniquely positioned to connect public and private sector partners.
“Innovation DuPage is the next evolution in the College’s commitment to economic development,” he said. “The strong base of partners positions it for great success in encouraging entrepreneurship, strengthening existing small businesses and advancing the regional innovation ecosystem.”
For more information about Innovation DuPage or to fill out an application for the Accelerator Curriculum, visit innovationdupage.org. To fill out an application for DuPage Impact, visit dupageimpact.com.
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Innovation DuPage is a cooperative venture promoting business growth and job creation. College of DuPage is working together with partners from higher education and the public to guide entrepreneurs, small businesses and new companies on the path to success.
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