|English: The globe on the campus of Babson |
College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, U. S. This is
the restored globe installed in 1994, replacing the
original 1955 globe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
City Region Expert Roundtable on Entrepreneurship and Business Growth held at 54 St. James Street, an amazing incubator designed, built, and managed from a women first perspective. We had an intriguing group around the table, including Liverpool groups representing Enterprise Partnership, Mutual Homes, and Science Park, investment groups (Merseyside and Sefton), several Chambers of Commerce (Liverpool and St. Helen’s) , and three universities (Liverpool John Moores, Liverpool, and Sheffield), and of course my host and the convener for the day, The Women’s Organization. Our day started out with an agreement that we would each state what we hoped to get from the day. After all, these kind of talks happen all the time, and the big question is, what happens next. While every person gave their ideas, the basic themes emerged quite clearly.
- We have different ideas of success (job creation, gazelle support, lift out of poverty)
- Any money available to support these ideas has to come from multiple sources – therefore the need for collaboration
- Bureaucratic barriers abound (This would actually make a great T-shirt – Break Bureaucratic Barriers)
- Importance of incentivizing entrepreneurs
- Need the appropriate physical space (like 54 St. James, but more)
- Defining the community of interest – who actually cares and who’d be willing to work on it
- What is the role of policy?
- How do you develop an enterprising culture?
- What is the role of the large corporations?
We moved from an inventory of hopes and frustrations, to get down to what could actually be done. What quickly emerges is that people’s picture of what an effective ecosystem would look like is quite different. The term becomes so encompassing, it loses something in any opportunities for translation to action. I won’t say it’s like the old story about the blind people feeling different parts of the elephant and therefore each describing an elephant quite differently from each other, but yet again, maybe I will. What we are really talking about is an environment in which people consider starting their own business as a natural part of any career discussion. Some will, many won’t, but it wouldn’t be considered unusual. Then we are talking about an environment in which there are coordinated resources to start a business, ranging from training through creative types of financing that don’t necessarily look to banks (where we all want to keep our safe/low risk money) for start-up funding. And third, we’re talking about an environment in which there are other resources, different resources that support growth and long term sustainability of these businesses.
We talked all morning, and eventually ended up with a few takeaways on the ecosystem bit:
1) Who is the convener? Who is the person or organization in the area that when they call a meeting, or multiple meetings, people will show up.
2) Who is not at the table? Small business owners of all types must be at the table, not only to ask what they’d like to see, but to have them engaged in building the environment. Action breeds ownership and everyone needs to feel some responsibility for the environmental change. Who else is not at the table? Often , educators are only brought in at the higher levels of education. I still think the people who need to best understand entrepreneurship are the kindergarten teachers. What do you want to be when you grow up? An entrepreneur!
3) The various levels of government need to be aligned and coordinated. Many cities have looked at their regulations and laws related to small business ownership and have tried to streamline. The challenge is that there are national, sometimes county, in the U.S. , state levels? What does this look like when you pile them all together?
4) Agreed sense of what success would look like. This was one of the most interesting parts of the day for me. Success has to be more broad than a program supporting the start of small businesses. We have to remember that people who start businesses generally report a motive for starting that is more about independence. Money is generally in the top 3-5, but it’s usually not the primary reason. People want to create the opportunity to live the way they want to live.
P.S. And of course, I did the pilgrimage to the Cavern Club for a touch of the Beatles. I think I was the youngest person in there, except for the staff. Still worth it.
Patti Greene, Contributor
10/04/2013 @ 6:09PM
10/04/2013 @ 6:09PM