Amy Pietsch has served as the director of the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton for the past six years. Since January, she has also led the New North Small Business and Entrepreneur Committee. She sat down with Insight Editor Margaret LeBrun to talk about how the Venture Center works to meet the needs of new and growing businesses.
As director of the FOX Valley Technical College Venture Center, I am responsible for making sure we have products and services available in three distinct areas: entrepreneurial studies, business development and innovation. It’s all designed to help launch and grow entrepreneurial firms and small businesses in the region, which leads to job creation.
I care about continuing to be able to provide people with the best experience possible to be able to pursue their passion – specifically as it relates to being able to take an idea, wrap a solid business model around that idea and create something that hadn’t been done before, or to expand, enhance and grow something that had existed.
What is hard for people? Taking action. People need to execute. In order to execute, you have to take lots of little steps every day.
Those that build their skill sets and continue to learn, continue to grow – and continue to have solid businesses. At the Venture Center, we try to provide an experience that helps them make changes in their business immediately, as well as plan for the long-term sustainability of their business.
Our E-Seed program is for startup and early stage entrepreneurs who need to develop their business management skills, create a business plan and build their network. A few years ago we partnered with the E-Myth (Worldwide) organization, to launch Pro-Seed™ powered by E-Myth®. That is an experience for existing business owners to learn how to develop the systems and processes that they need for their business – to get out of the way so that their business can grow.
New this year, we’re offering our social entrepreneur workshop, designed for non-profits. Another one we have is boot strapping, a workshop that helps you raise cash for your business without debt or investor financing.
We have about a dozen adjunct faculty and independent faculty – many of whom are successful business owners in their own right – who provide the training and instruction for us.
More than 1,000 people have gone through the E-Seed program since we launched in 2001. We’ve also hit the 300-plus number in business launches, which have created over1,000 jobs.
Even if they decide not to go out and launch a business, they may go back into the workplace a better employee. They are looking at the world now through an entrepreneurial paradigm, and that is what employers want today. The New North Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee has been very rewarding. It’s a large group for people who believe in New North and in the vision to help create a very strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in our region. They have been working really hard all year to be able to accelerate innovation to capitalization.
We have the opportunity in our region to be more efficient and focused when a high-impact entrepreneur wants to launch in our region. Currently there are a lot of people and resources available to them, but the way they have to navigate the landscape to get to the right people and resources can be cumbersome and slow them down.
We are trying to streamline the process to identify a process and then make sure that it’s streamlined so when somebody comes along that we know is going to go from zero to $20 million in five years, what can help them realize that. That will lead to job creation. That will continue to add value to our quality of life. Everything you need to be successful – the resources, the people, the networks – is here.