VIP program for Rural Oregon Entrepreneurs: Launch Your Growth Business
Prepare for Success
Knowledge, networking and mentoring are key to entrepreneurial success. That’s what the Virtual Incubation Program (VIP) delivers. We start the program twice a year – in April and in September. If you are a rural Oregon entrepreneur and you’re ready, apply now for the September 2017 program. Have questions? Read on!
What you’ll Accomplish
VIP will help you understand your customers and market. Find out whether (and how much) customers will pay. Develop a budget and a forecast. Create a realistic funding plan. Build a team. Design a marketing and sales plan that fits your product or service. Learn what legal steps can help protect you company. Discover entrepreneur resources that can help with your type of business.
In other words – we’ll help you prepare – so you can succeed in launching and growing your company.
At the same time you’ll be connecting with other entrepreneurs, advisors, investors, bankers, and others from all over the state.
An Online Program you Attend from Home or as a Group
VIP is an 8 -week sequence of weekly workshops that address key entrepreneurship topics, followed by 4 months of twice-monthly group mentoring sessions. You’ll learn about topics ranging from customer discovery to how to protect your company. During follow-up twice-monthly online update meetings, you’ll continue to benefit from mentoring and introductions, while also learning more about (and very possibly helping) other entrepreneurs in your class
Participants attend via live video without leaving home, or meet up with other team members or other entrepreneurs and join each session as a group. (Entrepreneurs participating in groups all over the state worked well in our VIP pilots).
Meet Other Entrepreneurs
OTBC uses live video technology that lets attendees interact with the presenter and the other attendees. It’s like sitting around a virtual table with entrepreneurs from around the state.
Top Rated Mentoring
Optionally, you can schedule one on one mentoring time with OTBC’s top rated mentoring program (The Portland State University’s Oregon Founder’s Study gave OTBC’s mentoring the top rating in the state). In mentoring sessions, we help you with the challenges that are unique to your business.
OTBC has delivered the VIP program in two pilot projects funded by the Oregon Community Foundation, and a 2016 summer program. See some testimonials from previous VIP participants at this link.
Who should apply?
All entrepreneurs in rural Oregon who are building a growth business and have access to the internet are encouraged to apply. To participate in the online sessions, you’ll need a computer with a webcam or a smart phone or tablet device.
By “growth” businesses, we mean a business that plans to deliver a product or service to customers regionally, nationally or internationally. In other words, a “traded sector” business. If you’re intent is to build a local business selling to local customers, you’ll certainly get value from VIP. But the best fit and the most value will be for for companies that want to grow outside of their local market – growth businesses.
Is this Just for Tech Companies?
This program is for any early stage rural Oregon company that has an objective to grow, and a business model that is scalable (i.e., a model that is capable of supporting growth). That might mean crafts, housewares, software, mobile app, clean tech, food, beverage, or any number of other markets. If your goal is to grow a business where you are selling to customers in a regional, national, or international market, then VIP is for you.
Is this just for companies that are seeking investors?
One of our goals is to help companies develop a funding plan that fits the companies goals, vision and values. That may mean investor capital, it may mean grant funding, or it may mean growing from revenues and making enough headway to have access to bank financing. VIP is not limited to companies that are seeking investors – but many growth companies eventually seek investor funding, so investor funding is certainly a topic we will address.
How it Works
VIP begins with 8 online workshops. Each week we publish one or more videos focused on the entrepreneurial topic for that week – and then hold a live workshop using interactive video (we use the Zoom.us service for this) to summarize the topic and discuss how to apply it to your business. Entrepreneurs can participate via a computer with a webcam, or via the Zoom.us smartphone app (iOS or Android).
In the workshops, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other attendees, ask questions, and arrange for follow-up contacts. Optionally, you can arrange for one-on-one mentoring time with an OTBC mentor.
The video workshops are 90 minutes long to allow plenty of time for Q&A and entrepreneur interaction. They feature OTBC mentors as well as entrepreneurs, investors, mentors from partner organizations, and experts in fields such as accounting and Human Resources.
After the 8 week sequence of workshops is completed, we’ll continue to meet online in interactive online group mentoring sessions twice monthly for 4 months so participants can continue to report on headway, ask questions, get introductions, work with mentors offline, and get help from the other participating entrepreneurs,
What topics will be addressed in the videos & workshops?
We may adjust the workshop topic list as we learn more about the interests and needs of the participants – but here are the topics we’ve learned are usually the most valuable for growth entrepreneurs:
- Week 1: Introductions and program overview; How to test your value proposition,
and business model, and find out how much customers will pay
- Week 2: How to Analyze your Market: Size, Segments, Competition and Trends
- Week 3: How to fund your startup
- Week 4: How to develop a budget and a financial forecast
- Week 5: How to protect your company and your intellectual property
- Week 6: Building a startup team
- Week 7: Develop a Go to Market Plan; Develop a Compelling Pitch
- Week 8: Next Steps; Additional startup resources in Oregon
Of course, it takes more than watching the videos and attending workshops. The workshops and videos just show the way. You have to make the commitment to do the work to prepare your company for success.
We realize you can’t get it all done in 8 weeks. The 8 weeks of workshops will arm you with some important “how to” information for building your business, and get you started testing your business model. In the 4-months of follow-up online mentoring, you’ll apply what you’ve learned to validate and then launch your business.
Our next program will be in September of 2017. For 8 weeks we meet once per week for 90 minutes to discuss the topic of the week. Once the 8 weeks is up, we meet twice a month for 4 additional months to do online mentoring.
There is no fee to apply. For participants from rural Oregon, the VIP program is expenses are subsidized by the Janette G. Drew Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation, which allows us to keep the cost very low. If you are accepted, the one-time fee to register for VIP for entrepreneurs in rural Oregon is $79, paid online via credit card.
How we Select Participants
Some of the factors we look at when considering an applicant to the VIP program are:
- Is the applicant a startup in rural Oregon?
- Is it a growth business?
- Does the business sound like a growth business, with sales potential outside the local market?
- Does the unmet need seem compelling?
- Is there clear differentiation from alternative solutions?
- Is the entrepreneur committed to spending at least 4 hours a week working on the business?
- Does VIP sound like a good fit given the applicant’s challenges and goals?