Originally published in March 2017 on Sootoday.com
StartUP Sault Ste. Marie recently celebrated three years as a catalyst for building a supportive and knowledgeable “Startup Community” in Sault Ste. Marie.
Through our partnerships, activities, programs and tools, StartUP Sault Ste. Marie has worked to engage local entrepreneurs, facilitated the sharing of knowledge, helped educate the business community and promoted entrepreneurship as a satisfying career option.
Sault Ste. Marie, as with many communities, has challenges to overcome to achieve continued growth, support its citizens and in general remain a great place to live, work and play. To realize these broader goals, it is imperative the community’s business sector continue to grow, and thrive.
For our business community to continue to grow, Sault Ste. Marie needs more entrepreneurs — more entrepreneurs to start new businesses, more entrepreneurs to take over existing businesses and more entrepreneurs to create new products and services.
Sault Ste. Marie has a shortage of entrepreneurs. We need more to achieve growth and prosperity for our community. We need to graduate more entrepreneurs, not just employees. We need to foster more interest in entrepreneurship as a career option for youth. We need to support creativity and the development of new ideas, solutions and opportunities.
Entrepreneurship isn’t just about running a business. It is a mindset. It is about solving problems and being innovative. Successful entrepreneurs solve their customers’ problems and pain points – sometimes even creating solutions to problems we don’t realize we have yet.
Entrepreneurship in our schools should involve enhancing our creative, problem solving skills with a healthy mix of studying successful entrepreneurs and what it takes to start and grow a business.
We need to ensure our elementary and high schools are teaching entrepreneurship. We should be teaching our young people meaningful technology skills. We should be improving creativity and problem-solving skills.
Finally, we should be mashing all of this together through opportunities in idea generation, business simulations and the opportunity to launch real-world businesses.
Sault Ste. Marie’s post-secondary programs need to reinforce the entrepreneurial mindset by incorporating entrepreneurship into more programs. We can’t expect to graduate more entrepreneurs when their exposure to the subject is limited to one or two classes during their three or four years of schooling.
In order to build an entrepreneurial culture in Sault Ste. Marie, we need to develop a mindset where entrepreneurship is accepted and encouraged as a career option, the same as getting a job. After all, times have changed. Millennials are now faced with the reality that there are no job guarantees.
We must engage more with potential entrepreneurs and better promote the various programs and services offered to assist in starting local businesses.
To better service existing entrepreneurs, the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem should collaborate more to assist entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses.
The ‘Catalyst’ — a project that is led by the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) and partnered with StartUP Sault Ste. Marie, aims to create a “one-door approach” to services in Sault Ste. Marie for small business assistance.
The project team includes representatives from various organizations in the community such as the Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, BDC, Social Enterprise Evolution and more.
The objective is to coordinate services, identify gaps, and develop tools for directing entrepreneurs more efficiently to the available services in the community. Building on the Startup Roadmap, developed last year by StartUP Sault, which identified services available at the Idea, Launch and Growth phases, the project aims to create a “continuum” of services to guide entrepreneurs on each step of their journey.
The one-door approach will mean that no matter which organization an individual contacts first – they can be seamlessly pointed to the appropriate organization or resource available in the community to best assist them.
Despite best efforts of these partners, the general public does not often understand what services exist in the community to help start or grow a business. The Catalyst project is designed to help in this regard.
As I have laid out here, there are many things we can do together as a community and entrepreneurial ecosystem that can enhance the potential success and growth of our small business sector.
We will continue to make progress and pursue our goals, but it is important to understand that we all have a role to play in building up our community. It is much easier to build when we are all pushing in the same direction.