Initiative 4# - Cheyenne Center for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (C2 E2)
These action steps are outlined in the Community and Economic Development strategy. Below are the action steps, but the full document includes the case studies, as well.
Develop an environment for entrepreneurship through purposeful investments, programs, and policies that support and encourage small business formation and development.
Action 4.1: Establish a C2E2 Board of Advisors to help advance C2E2 startup efforts.
The Cheyenne Center for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (C2E2) is envisioned as both a virtual and physical anchor for the entrepreneurial community, both a resource and a gathering space. It was observed throughout the research phase that Greater Cheyenne's entrepreneurial support system is relatively underdeveloped in terms of supportive assets, programs, and resources. Similarly, it was observed that -while there are of course exceptions - there is relatively little investment in the community to suggest to entrepreneurs that Greater Cheyenne is a community that values, encourages, and seeks to nurture entrepreneurial activity. C2E2 represents that investment.
To initiate startup efforts, a coalition - the C2E2 Board of Advisors - should be formed to advise key community partners, notably an operator of the C2E2 virtual and physical facilities (this operator is to be identified in the forthcoming Implementation Plan). The coalition should be comprised primarily of existing providers of small business support services as well as existing entrepreneurs and successful small business owners that can support C2E2's establishment, maturation, and programming. A variety of existing networks exist which could help populate this coalition, including but not limited to the Chamber Business Council, Bizlink, and Cheyenne Women's Entrepreneur Roundtable supported by the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. Resources in the community include but are by no means limited to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE, and the Library to Business (L2B) program; a variety of other resource exist in neighboring communities from Fort Collins to Laramie.
This coalition - the C2E2 Board of Advisors - should prioritize outreach to state leadership engaged in advancing Economic Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) recommendations, notably efforts to establish Startup:Wyoming, a new state organization supported by 2018 legislation that would, in part, help work with local partners to help develop new physical spaces and networks to support entrepreneurship, while administering funding programs that expand access to capital. Specifically, legislation called for Startup:Wyoming to work "in conjunction with the University of Wyoming, community colleges, localities, chambers of commerce, industrial authorities and other public and private groups, develop incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, makerspaces and other unique work spaces and equipment to foster entrepreneurialism" and to "provide entrepreneurs with advanced resources to help their business succeed, including mentoring, marketing, legal and other business coaching services." C2E2 startup efforts should also be mindful of other opportunities that could potentially influence programming such as the Bloomberg Mayor's Challenge (winners TBD in late 2018).
Action 4.2: Establish a virtual Center to promote available resources and the vision for C2 E2.
One of the first tasks for the C2E2 Board of Advisors should be the development of a virtual Center; a unique website that promotes the vision, available resources, and encourages connectivity within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
This virtual Center could include the following elements:
A clear yet detailed guide on how to start a business in Cheyenne and Laramie County
Access to all relevant and necessary forms associated with starting a business
Links to available resources at the local, regional, and state level
Contact information for mentors and advisory services (i.e. SCORE mentors and SBDC)
A mentor connection portal (mentor profiles and a form to submit a request for mentor)
Links to available physical spaces (i.e. existing co-working spaces)
Information about available incentives for small business at the local and state level
Information about upcoming networking and educational events of interest to entrepreneurs
Elements of this work may already be underway in the community; for example, DDA has begun work on a small business resource network map and the library system has compiled resources through its Library to Business program (L2B). Once developed, the virtual Center should be aggressively promoted throughout the community through direct outreach to existing entrepreneurs and small business owners using available membership and contact lists, and other databases such as ReferenceUSA that include contact information for business owners.
Action 4.3: Develop an operating plan and identify a physical location for C2E2 in Downtown Cheyenne.
Once the virtual Center is established, a vision for a physical Center should be pursued. The C2E2 Board of Advisors should begin developing an operating plan to include new programming and services to be offered at a new physical location. As the community's central business district, focal point for redevelopment activity, and location of existing assets supporting small business development, Downtown Cheyenne is the logical location for C2E2.
The Board of Advisors should evaluate a variety of potential opportunities to enhance programming and services offered to entrepreneurs throughout the region with strong consideration given to any new resources and programming enabled by state investments through Startup:Wyoming. Potential programmatic elements include:
Provision of proprietary market research resources that can aid with sales and lead generation
Establishment of an economic gardening program in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation
Development of business plan competitions and other events (i.e. pitch events)
Co-location with (or provision of office space to) other providers of small business support services
Provision of low-cost office space for rent and/or co-location with existing co-working facilities
Action 4.4: Evaluate opportunities to capitalize and establish a Cheyenne-focused angel fund to support emerging entrepreneurs.
While C2E2 is envisioned as an endeavor that is largely driven by the private sector for the private sector, the public sector and other community partners certainly play a role in facilitating small business formation and success. It was observed throughout the stakeholder input process that, for a variety of reasons (including but not limited restrictions on property tax abatements), some prospective entrepreneurs are unable to get endeavors off the ground without additional financing for necessary equipment. Furthermore, many small businesses often do not receive sufficient capital to make initial startup investments from traditional lending sources. This is a challenge that is pervasive across the state; CNBC's Top States for Business ranks Wyoming last in terms of "access to capital." While some angel funds and individual angel investors are active in other parts of the state - notably Jackson and Casper - the Cheyenne area could benefit from the formation of an angel investor network that is interested in investing in Cheyenne area startups.
Efforts to identify potential entrepreneurs seeking such capital is an appropriate first step. This can help evaluate and demonstrate available opportunities to potential investors. It can also help the community develop and maintain a list of budding entrepreneurs and their financing needs; some may not be ideal fits for angel investment but are better positioned for other available financing programs, potentially including but not limited to a variety of existing loan programs made available through the Wyoming Business Council, revolving loan funds (RLF) made available through the Joint Power Board, and new Kickstart:Wyoming funds enabled by 2018 legislation.
Efforts to identify and convene potential investors is an appropriate second step. Ultimately, potential investors will determine their level of interest and should establish the parameters and guidelines for their investments.