INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The Kelley School of Business at IUPUI and the Indy Chamber have launched a new initiative to help small businesses in central Indiana. The Enterprise Corps expands resources available to small businesses in Indianapolis and connects them with faculty coaches and teams of Kelley MBA students to answer questions and provide guidance. The concept arose from the early days of the pandemic when the Indy Chamber launched its Rapid Response Hub, utilizing the expertise of Kelley School faculty to help small businesses survive the healthcare crisis.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Phil Powell, associate dean of academic programs at the Kelley School at IUPUI said based on the success of the initial, informal effort, the partners decided to grow the program.
“Back in March 2020, there was always discussion of…’when this pandemic is done, let’s have a permanent infrastructure of assistance for small businesses in Indianapolis.’ And Enterprise Corps is delivering on that idea,” said Powell.
Powell says Enterprise Corps began in December with a group of ten small businesses paired with ten Kelley faculty members. They provided regular coaching and mentoring. Powell says they wanted to make sure the concept worked before expanding.
“All of these business owners have the talent and drive to build a profitable enterprise,” said Powell. “Research shows the barrier to success for many Indianapolis entrepreneurs is access to knowledge, networks and financial capital. Through Enterprise Corps, we hope to bridge that gap and become an intermediary to pool regional assistance for small businesses.”
This summer, the corps partnered 22 MBA teams with small business owners to further examine the sustainability of the initiative. The partners say the long-term goal of Enterprise Corps is to expand into a large regional network of specialized experts and coaches who can provide knowledge and analysis to small businesses that join the program.
Sarah MacInnis, director of business coaching services at the Indy Chamber’s Business Ownership Initiative, says COVID-19 forced businesses to pivot and this program further helps small business owners to learn from that response.
“Like our BOI business coaches, they are experts looking at businesses, analyzing them, and providing advice on how small businesses can stabilize, scale, and grow, so they are pivoting in the right direction,” said MacInnis. “BOI saw exponential demand for business coaching, resources, and funding in the last 18 months, and we continue to see increasing demand.”
Powell says moving forward, the Enterprise Corps is helping Indianapolis become a more competitive metropolitan region in terms of economic mobility and small business creation.
“We really rank low in terms of our small business environment. It hurts economic mobility. It hurts talent retention, and it hurts innovation,” said Powell. “At the end of the day, we’re going to have to have an infrastructure, or a superstructure, that is impacting hundreds of small businesses a year. Not in a onetime sort of project basis, or a onetime sort of support basis but an ongoing relationship.”