Supporting Small Businesses for the Future
September '18 - February '19 | South Bend, IN
Small businesses make up the backbone of our communities and our economy. Family-owned businesses employ over 60% of the US workforce, create 78% of all new jobs, and generate 64% of the United States GDP (source). But being a small business owner is difficult. Half of all small businesses hold a cash buffer of less than one month, 36% have an issue meeting basic operating expenses, 46% have trouble accessing credit or capital to expand (source).
Small business owners have to constantly switch between working in their business and working on their business -- this creates a huge opportunity to make their lives easier. However, most of the entrepreneurship and innovation world is focused on building enterprise-level solutions, and while they have versions marketed to small businesses, they don't really understand the reality and differences between a national enterprise and a main street business. We believe that there is an opportunity to learn from small business owners about their struggles and create ventures with solutions specifically aimed at them. Supporting these businesses can have a huge impact on the business owners, their families, and our communities.
Cohort 2 will look into a range of issues that face America's small business owners. Managing finances and inventory, planning for growth and expansion, pricing and purchasing, training and retaining great employees, navigating permitting and regulations, and much more will be explored to find places where scalable ventures can be built to support them.
Why South Bend?
There is no better place to learn about the ups and downs of being a small business owner than a community where they play such an important role in our daily lives. South Bend has a vibrant small business scene, which will allow our Cohort 2 entrepreneurs the chance to learn what happens in the day-to-day of running a business. This insight, combined with the national level research and network that INVANTI has curated, is the secret sauce behind building a venture that resonates with individual customers but also has the ability to scale nationally.
What to Expect
INVANTI is a full-time commitment (which is why we provide a monthly stipend, letting you focus on this and not worry about keeping a part-time job). We dig deep into problems, spend a lot of time in coffee shops meeting with lots of different people, and ultimately use those insights to decide what solutions we can build and quickly test. INVANTI is the perfect place for people we call initiators. If you're not afraid to just get started, whether that means sitting in a coffee shop with a sign that says "I want to talk to you about medical bills!" or flying across the country to test a prototype made from post-it notes (shout out to Cohort 1!), we want you here. There is something powerful about a group of like-minded people in the same room, all passionate about building important things. Starting a venture is hard. But for those who aren't afraid to start, INVANTI is the place for you.
1. Find Contradictions. We look for problems that naturally get the reaction, "That doesn't make any sense! That problem shouldn't exist!" We then help our entrepreneurs evaluate each of these for the one that lies at the intersection of a big opportunity for impact, a big opportunity for a business, and something that they can get excited to spend the next stage of their life building.
2. Imagine New Solutions. Once we know the problem we are attacking, we spend time imagining ways to combine informal solutions already being used, technology, and business models into new venture concepts. We guide our entrepreneurs through a process to vet these as well, again focusing on where there is the biggest opportunity for impact and profit at scale.
3. Test, Test, Test. Finally, we take those solutions and business models and find the fastest and cheapest ways to test them here in South Bend. Because South Bend is big enough to have many of these issues, but small enough to allow us to test new things, we can learn quickly what works and what doesn't, and start to build the beginnings of a startup.