January 30, 2023

Aug. 15—ANDERSON — With inflation at a 40-year record high, the current economic environment may not seem particularly inviting to someone who aspires to start a business.
Will Hall doesn't necessarily see it that way.
"People are just trying to redevelop themselves and redevelop the way they think about earning money and earning a living," said Hall, an employment consultant in Ivy Tech Community College's Ivy Plus Career Link office. "With COVID, we've seen people going back to school at a higher rate, and I think this is just kind of an extension of that. I think you could argue that there is no better time than right now, when everything's being turned on its head and being rethought."
Over the past several months, Hall and his colleagues heard enough from students — both at Ivy Tech and elsewhere — and from area businesses to convince them to create a program that would help would-be entrepreneurs develop and fine-tune their ideas into detailed, ready-to-execute business plans. The result is the Anderson Entrepreneurship Discovery Program, a three-day series of seminars designed to expose ideas to a crucible of challenging questions, with a goal of refining them to pitch readiness.
"We see a lot of students come through here that have very creative and innovative ideas and they just don't necessarily know what to do with them," said Lindsey Madinger, director of development at Ivy Tech's Anderson campus. "It's important to us to provide a program where we can really foster their entrepreneurship spirit, but then also give them tangible action items to move forward with it."
Ivy Tech and the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, in partnering to plan and offer the program, are tapping NEXT Studios, an Indianapolis-based venture capital company, to provide curriculum from its Entrepreneur Discover services. The idea, Hall said, is to identify potential weak spots in students' business plans and shore them up to ease the process of securing capital investments.
"Within that curriculum, there are exercises and presentations that are designed to make sure these folks are asking the right questions of their startup process," Hall said. "Do I know who my target market is? Do I know how to source funding? Do I know how to navigate and network with other businesses and other founders to try to fine-tune my business?"
The seminars will also include several local entrepreneurs who have been invited to interact with students and share their experiences.
"Being an entrepreneur is not a career choice, it's a lifestyle," said Clayton Whitson, president and CEO of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce. "These folks need to understand that, and who better to talk them and coach them through that than folks that have lived it?"
Whitson and Madinger said the program will be capped at six participants, in part to ensure each person receives extensive one-on-one time with instructors and has ample opportunities to have questions answered. Plans to offer the program again in the future are uncertain, but will be discussed following the upcoming program.
"I think we do want to grow this program," Madinger said. "I think for us, this is just the start. We also want it to maybe be the start of an entrepreneurship program that they could go into with Ivy Tech on the curriculum side to offer some type of certificate or degree in that. We're trying to grow that program here as well."
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