National Business Incubation Association; Your source for knowledge and networks in business incubation

Build a better network

by Carol James

April 2002

In 1983, a few entrepreneurs and service providers in Research Triangle Park, N.C., got together to promote homegrown start-ups in the region. They called themselves the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) and their first public event was a seminar on accessing venture capital. They were astounded by the turnout — 200 people showed up. Organizers knew then that they were on to something.

The CED is one of five entrepreneurial networks described in a National Commission on Entrepreneurship (NCOE) report, Building Entrepreneurial Networks. Effective networks can open doors to capital, help entrepreneurs learn from and do business with each other, and give them access to mentors, service providers, technology and customers, note authors Erik Pages, NCOE policy director, and Shari Garmise, an independent consultant to NCOE.

Traditional business networks such as chambers of commerce have long been a source of information and resources for local business people. Entrepreneurial networks can provide similar assistance for a region's entrepreneurial community by providing services, resources for start-up and early-stage companies, and even moral support to help entrepreneurs get through the trials of starting a company.

If you need help establishing or boosting entrepreneurial networks in your community, Building Entrepreneurial Networks can help. It offers a wealth of information about successful techniques for starting effective networks (see "Networking success in 10 steps") and delineates the best practices behind them. The report uses five case studies, including the CED, to demonstrate that starting an entrepreneurial network won't be easy, but it likely will be well worth the effort.

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Keywords: networking, strategic partnerships

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