Devin Cole: What the City can do for Entrepreneurs

As manager of Boston Young Entrepreneurs and its parent organization ONEin3 Boston, I am tasked with matching young people with needs to organizations with the resources to address those needs. Often, and particularly in the entrepreneurial world, those resources hide in plain sight.

 

There are at least two things going on here:

  1. We are exceedingly lucky, as young people and entrepreneurs, to be in a place like Boston that is flush with opportunity and support.
  2. Our networks are not optimized and we miss opportunities because of the volume of activity and not enough clarity or organization as a community.

With the rest of my blog, I’ll try to address both of these issues.

 

First, let’s filter through all Boston has to offer and highlight some truly useful resources that are free or geared toward you young people out there.   Because ONEin3 and Boston Young Entrepreneurs are part of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and because government support is often overlooked by people in our generation, I will take this opportunity to introduce several government organizations that you should consider.

The Office of Business Development provides direct financial and technical assistance to small business. In addition to basics like business plan support, OBD has some excellent programming including Boston Buying Power, which offers small businesses cheaper power through collective bargaining, Microloan Boston, which provides small loans for startups, lots of market research, and for you retailers out there, the nationally recognized Main Streets program.

The MSBDC is a hub of information, guidance and networking for Boston’s entrepreneurs. In addition to direct support, they are also the place to go for information about federal grants, loans and other programming that can help you as you build your business. Keep up with them.

Kirstein is a Boston institution. Housed downtown for most of its history, Kirstein now operates out of the main branch of the Boston Public Library at Copley Square. Go there for data, stay for their broad range of programming.

The VDC offers space and support to start-up and early-stage ventures in order “to accelerate time to market and investment and keep costs to a minimum.” In addition to general office accommodations, the VDC provides mentoring, interns, a network of entrepreneurs, and true business support from start to finish. While most of their current tenants come from the life sciences or high tech spaces, they are open to growing startups in a broad range of industries. Keep an eye on their blog for news.

ONEin3 Boston is the City of Boston’s initiative to provide resources to the one-third of its population that is between the ages of 20 and 34. ONEin3 helps ONEin3ers find and create jobs, navigate the housing market, connect with their neighborhoods, and invest in the civic life of the City. Within ONEin3, we have an Advisory Council to Mayor Menino,  Boston Young Entrepreneurs, Neighborhood ONEin3 groups acrossBoston and ONEin3 Money, a new campaign to provide budgeting and financial planning support to young people.

Boston Young Entrepreneurs is a community of entrepreneurs who support each other in starting new businesses and growing them. We host two meetings per month. Our main event is a business plan presentation by a member, focused on shoring up flaws and weaknesses in both the plan and the presentation. We also host a seminar, workshop or panel discussion focused on an issue of particular importance to young entrepreneurs.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these 6 institutions in the comments, and please add any government resources I might have missed.

 

Ok, on to point #2.

Boston has a dispersed set of entrepreneurial hubs, each of which has its own center of gravity. As is evident on GreenhornTV, you could go to a different networking event every night of the week. However, it would take unheard of resources and free time to have a presence in every community built up around the hubs in Waltham, Cambridge and Boston, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Bentley and UMass, so it pays to be able to pick and choose with full information which ones are best suited to your needs.

 

As a community of entrepreneurs, we need to support each other more effectively by pooling resources and information. One way to do this is to deliberately draw together all of the discrete groups, organizations and institutions that have a stake in the entrepreneurial nature of Boston.

 

I want to publicly applaud Greenhorn Connect for providing a space on the web that can exist as a virtual meeting place for different parts of the entrepreneurial community in Boston.

It’s up to the rest of us to do two things:

  1. Drive everyone you know to Greenhorn to make it a great, content-heavy site.
  2. Make a conscious effort to build partnerships, particularly if you host meetups or any other type of event for entrepreneurs. Always think about what other organizations or people should be involved and take a minute or two to reach out to them. We will all be stronger for it and it will pay dividends for you and the community.

I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on both my resource recommendations and creating a more functional network in Boston. I’ve only scratched the surface, so speak up and speak loud in the comments section!

 

Devin Cole is the manager of ONEin3Boston of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. You can reach him at Devin.Cole.BRA [at] CityofBoston [dot]  gov

None
Login or register to tag items