Objective: Connect Wichita Falls’ existing entrepreneurial ecosystem and enhance technical assistance, mentorship opportunities, and access to capital for a diverse range of entrepreneurs.
Business attraction and BRE – discussed in Key Initiatives #5 and #6 – represent two pathways to growing jobs in a local economy. The third is providing support and assistance to entrepreneurs and startups. While most enterprises will never hire hundreds of employees and realize revenues in the tens or hundreds of millions, entrepreneurs and locally grown businesses can collectively have a major impact on a community’s economic growth and capacity for wealth creation. Entrepreneurship also represents an important pathway to building wealth in communities that have traditionally suffered from disinvestment.
Data reveal that Wichita Falls has a relatively strong level of entrepreneurial and startup activity. Nearly 13 percent of the community’s jobs are in firms that are five years old or newer, nearly two percentage points higher than the national average. Additionally, workers in Wichita Falls are also more likely to be self-employed. Self-employed individuals are typically sole proprietors, independent contractors, and individuals with part-time businesses who, if successful, may eventually incorporate their operations. The community also has existing assets that support entrepreneurship, such as the Midwestern State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and MSU’s Dillard College of Business and Munir Abdul Lalani Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
This Key Initiative seeks to connect and collectively market the community’s existing entrepreneurial resources. It also addresses other competitive needs and challenges that emerged from stakeholder engagement, including a need for enhanced mentorship opportunities and access to capital – particularly for minority entrepreneurs.
- The 800 Initiative (Memphis, TN)
1. Connect and enhance the visibility of existing technical assistance resources
- With the Chamber, (SBDC), and other partners, work to map local entrepreneurial ecosystem assets, including existing programs and entities, established entrepreneurs willing to serve as mentors, capital providers and investors, etc.; Identify and seek to fill any programmatic gaps
- Develop a multi-pronged outreach campaign to promote these available resources to a wide range of entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs in Wichita Falls
- Work with the SBDC and mentors (see next Recommended Action) to hold monthly or semi-monthly “office hours” in locations around the community to “meet people where they are”
2. Provide customized mentoring services for minority entrepreneurs
- Develop a network of mentors with strong network connections and trust to raise awareness organically within various neighborhoods and/or social and cultural groups within Wichita Falls
- Through this network, help minority entrepreneurs access technical assistance and access to capital
- Create networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners that highlight the geographic, racial/ethnic, and cultural diversity of Wichita Falls
3. Establish a revolving loan fund to expand access to capital
- Create and capitalize a self-replenishing revolving loan fund (RLF) to enhance Wichita Falls’ small business climate and help entrepreneurs make initial capital investments, support the development of new products, and test market viability
- Convene economic development and entrepreneurship professionals, local financial institutions, foundations, and other potential funding partners to establish, capitalize, and manage a fund
- Establish criteria and loan terms, define acceptable uses of monies, and establish a loan review committee; require companies that receive funding to seek guidance from the community’s small business and entrepreneurial assistance services
- Ensure that the availability of funds is well-publicized, particularly in traditionally underserved communities that are likely home to entrepreneurs who lack access to traditional sources of capital
4. Support entrepreneurial programs for Wichita Falls’ student population
- Work with education partners including the SBDC, MSU’s Dillard College of Business, and the Munir Abdul Lalani Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, the Business Management Program at Vernon College, and WFISD to identify updated entrepreneurial opportunities for students