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The Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneur Services division reported today on its successes supporting Indy-based businesses and aspiring employers in 2018, providing another year of 10,000+ hours of free business coaching and training opportunities and strengthening programs focused on ex-offender re-entry, urban preschool providers and Hispanic-owned businesses.

Entrepreneur Services includes Business Ownership Initiative (BOI) and The Central Indiana Women’s Business Center which offer coaching and small business lending as a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) partner, as well as the Hispanic Business Council. Collectively, they served approximately 1,250 clients and supported 100 new business starts.

“Local employers are our largest creators of jobs and wealth, and entrepreneurship is also a path towards upward mobility if we can help more of our neighbors start new businesses that serve our communities,” said Indy Chamber President & CEO Michael Huber.  “Our Entrepreneur Services team is making a difference in economic development and economic inclusion, and they had another great year in 2018.”

In addition to one-on-one business coaching, group classes and other programs, BOI also offers small business lending as an SBA microloan partner, meeting the capital needs of companies that may not qualify for traditional bank loans.  This initiative made a dozen new loans totaling roughly $420,000 last year.

2018 also marked the creation or expansion of programs aimed at communities that may face unique hurdles to entrepreneurship and economic opportunity:

The Re-Entry Development Initiative (REDi) offers entrepreneurship training and business coaching to currently- and formerly-incarcerated Hoosiers. In its second year, REDi provided 4,000 hours of coaching and training to 243 participants, offering the tools to help them launch their own business (and two did, in 2018), or make themselves more attractive to local companies looking for employees with soft skills and start-up savvy.

In late October, REDi hosted its first ‘Pitch Night’ at the John Boner Center on the Near Eastside, awarding a $2,500 first prize of cash and professional services.  REDi earned its own financial infusion, with SBA PRIME and Crime Prevention Grants from the Central Indiana Community Foundation propelling it into 2019.

The Hispanic Business Council (HBC) also expanded its successful Mentor-Protégé initiative in 2018, pairing established companies with up-and-coming enterprises to offer a sounding board, strategic planning advice and access to resources.  The HBC also released an Indiana University study on the Indy region’s Hispanic-owned businesses, detailing the demographics of nearly 4,900 such firms with collective sales of more than $1.1 billion.

BOI also houses the Central Indiana Women’s Business Center (CIWBC), a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration.  The CIWBC produces the annual ‘Women in Business’ event series in tandem with BOI’s business coaching and entrepreneurial education programs to empower and engage women in the regional economy – particularly as business owners.

“We can’t have an economic development strategy that pursues business attraction without focusing on the potential in our own backyards,” noted Ian Nicolini, the Indy Chamber’s Vice-President of Indianapolis Economic Development, who also oversees Entrepreneur Services.  “We’re working to encourage entrepreneurship across the region, with special efforts to make business ownership a realistic option for those who may have been left out of the discussion in the past, as part of our inclusive growth agenda.”

Last summer also marked a new phase of BOI’s outreach to local childcare and preschool providers.  For the past five years, in partnership with the United Way of Central Indiana’s (UWCI) Child Care Quality Improvement Project, BOI has provided business coaching toward financial sustainability to 90+ childcare centers and homes.  Through a grant from Huntington Bank, BOI will extend this work, dubbed ‘The Village,’ to serve low-to-moderate income neighborhood providers and in partnership with anchor institutions.  These partnerships aim to blend the Chamber’s efforts toward inclusive economic development, improving child care and an anchor institution strategy.

“The Village helps some of today’s employers while investing in tomorrow’s workforce,” explained Nicolini.  “Our advocacy team has lobbied for publicly-funded pre-K access, but we also need to ensure that quality preschools are convenient to families in our urban neighborhoods; to serve more children, they need to have sustainable balance sheets – that’s where we can make a difference.”

Entrepreneur Services also continued to offer coaching and lending from satellite locations across the region in 2018, working with local Chamber partners, neighborhood development groups and higher education institutions to bring services closer to potential clients.

“To tap into the full regional potential of entrepreneurship, we have to meet business owners and start-ups where they are – figuratively and literally,” finished Huber.  “We continue to expand and tailor our programs to the needs of our homegrown economy, and look forward to continuing our momentum in 2019.”

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