There’s a very strong regional push for entrepreneurial and small business in Fort Wayne and the surrounding region, said Trois Hart, director of Seed Fort Wayne, a quasi-government, nonprofit entity that manages targeted revitalization efforts for a seven-square-mile area of neighborhood corridors and industrial areas in Fort Wayne.
“Northeast Indiana understands the strength and power of entrepreneurship, and for our program, in particular … there’s a natural tie there that we believe is a strategy to improve opportunities for everybody in the region.”
Last August, the Greater Fort Wayne economic development corporation and JP Morgan Chase & Co. sponsored a trip for Fort Wayne leaders to Detroit to look at redevelopment happening here, with a focus on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Its tour included stops to learn about Motor City Match, Ponyride and Build Institute, Hart said. Seed liked Build’s curriculum and its focus on access for women and people of color.
“We think they’ve figured out every aspect of equitable entrepreneur development (to connect) underconnected individuals to business development opportunities,” Hart said.
Seed licensed the Build Basics curriculum for a year and in late February hosted representatives from Build Institute to train 10 facilitators or teachers for the classes in Fort Wayne.
Build contracted with part-time consultant Rachele Downs, founder of economic and community development consultancy Downs Diversity Initiatives LLC, to assist in taking the Build Cities program to other cities.
Seed is initially planning 10 cohorts of the eight-week classes which are set to launch this spring but could add more if demand is there, Hart said.
Build Basics is a tool to help people organize their inspiration and get them on a path, Hart said. Seed plans to expand on the classes by plugging participants into a larger ecosystem after they graduate to further support creation of businesses, Hart said, with workshops providing a deeper dive into their business plans, networking opportunities, mentoring and other activities, she said.
Build is charging other cities outside of Detroit between $10,000 and $30,000 in annual fees to bring the eight-week training classes and any other programs selected to their communities, Boyle said. It’s offering, for additional fees, access to its other programs like the Open Cities monthly networking events and Detroit Soup, along with additional consulting on best practices around launching the programs and building their ecosystems.
Build is operating on a budget of just under $1 million this year. About 55 percent of its revenue is foundation grants, 25 percent earned revenue and the remaining 20 percent is split between individual and corporate support, Boyle said.