Creating a "Right Door" for Entrepreneurs
As noted in a previous post, the Pittsburgh Region is not alone in the need to create "no wrong door for entrepreneurs," but the importance of growing the entrepreneurial base in southwestern Pennsylvania makes it a particular priority here to do this successfully.
HELP has been trying to get funding and assistance in creating a user-friendly web portal for entrepreneurs seeking advice and assistance. The types of features that could be included:
- A directory of the agencies and services that are available to help entrepreneurs. (Ideally, this would be structured in a customer-friendly "types of needs we address" rather than an agency-centric "types of services we provide" format.)
- A search mechanism or "expert system" that would enable an entrepreneur to quickly find the subset of agencies and services most likely to be a match for them, based on the type of business, where it is located, who owns/runs it, etc.
- An on-line forum where entrepreneurs could pose open-ended questions and requests for advice that other entrepreneurs and service providers could respond to.
- A searchable directory of entrepreneurs so that other entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, etc. could find entrepreneurs providing products and services of interest to them. (One entrepreneur called this the "Entrepreneurial Yellow Pages.")
- A common application form that would be used by all major service providers, so that an entrepreneur could fill out one form and have it considered by multiple agencies, rather than having to fill out a different form for every agency. (The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a Single Application Form for all of its programs, so at least the service providers the state funds could work toward the same thing.)
HELP's proposal would be an easy way to accelerate regional support for entrepreneurship. What's needed to make it happen?
1. A little bit of funding (committed on a multi-year basis) to create and maintain the site.
2. Cooperation and commitment from the agencies providing services to entrepreneurs that they will provide the information for the site and use it as an entry-point to their services.
3. An organizational home for the site (maybe an entrepreneur could do it?).
Shouldn't be too hard, right? Let's do it.