The Online Business Incubator
By Robert Panoff
You’ve seen some interesting stuff about BroadbandRI in this blog, but I’d like to tell you about the most interesting thing to-date, and it’s something with which you just might want to get involved. I’m partnering with Kelly Ramirez, of Social Venture Partners RI to implement an Online Business Incubator pilot program for the RIEDC and BBRI. We’re calling it OBI, and it aims to provide a one-stop online website for urban microbusiness entrepreneurs. OBI’s goal is to help RI’s under-served microbusiness community and the ambitious people within it, start and grow their own businesses. It’s going to aggregate everything they need to develop the skills and knowledge to start and grow their business successfully.
OBI’s unique because it combines interactive access to information and tools, as well as interactive access to experienced business mentors to help the entrepreneurs apply the information to their business. Finally, OBI is forging extensive ties to RI’s established business community to help sustain these small businesses long term.
These microbusinesses are very small, created and operated by individuals, usually from the owner’s home or a small neighborhood location. They typically don’t have access to traditional financial and commercial resources. Microbusiness entrepreneurs are not typically trying to get rich, but are trying to establish a free and independent lifestyle for themselves and their families.
OBI benefits the participating entrepreneurs because the interactive access makes it easy to get the help they need without cost or taking them away from their business to physically go to meetings. Access to the OBI website is free, and anyone can get the site’s basic business content and information.
Those interested in OBI participation will be able to learn about the program and assess how they might benefit from it. After completing a flexible enrollment process, OBI participants gain online access to the intermediate business content (financial, planning, marketing, operations, web presence, etc.), tools (Chat forums and Google Apps for word processing, messaging, calendar, conferencing, etc.), and the mentors available during the for the 12-week program. We expect to test the OBI website during December, and hope to go live by the end of January.
We’re looking for highly-motivated entrepreneur participants, with clear ideas about their goals and the business they want. They should be very interested. If they need help starting that business, or if started, growing it. A motivated and focused participant, with a strong desire to learn and grow, will fit best into the OBI program. The initial OBI participants will be the success stories that help us recruit additional OBI participants later on.
We’re also looking for help, so if you’d like to be a mentor (3-5 hours a week), or provide some help to these start-ups, please let us know. You can get more information by emailing me, Rob Panoff at email@example.com, or Kelly Ramirez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and may the entrepreneurial force be with you!