This past week Visual Impressions has been participating in a pilot business development program here in Milwaukee entitled either “Scalerator” or “Scale Up Milwaukee”. (http://scaleupmilwaukee.org/) I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this fantastic event, and thought a brief update on this initiative would make a good blog article for this week.
The concept from Dan Isenberg was simple. Many business pundits and experts are constantly focusing their attention on startups and use that as an indicator for growth. As most startups fail, or take a good chunk of time to grow their business into something worthwhile, maybe the focus of the discussion should be taking existing successful businesses and giving them the tools to grow their business and hit the next level. Taking a $5 million dollar company and turning it into a $10-20 million dollar company would have a bigger impact on the economy than taking a startup from $0 and having it reach its first $1 million in sales. Dan’s viewpoint is rock solid and he’s calling this an Entrepreneurship Ecosystem project.
There are twelve diverse businesses involved in this first group. Every one of them successful, and based on the insightful and laser focused comments presented during the first two days of the class, it is easy to see why. The class is divided up into four, two day discussions. Each segment has its own set of goals and individual itinerary, with the end goal being getting a new roadmap for success outlined that is individually tailored to each business participating.
The first class was taught by Professor Vinny Onyemah, from Babson College in Boston, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babson_College) the leading entrepreneurial academic institution on the planet. His energy and enthusiasm that he brings to delivering the information is incredible. He presents his material and guides the class into some really fantastic discussions. Class members are keen to help each other and offer suggestions, or ask focused follow up questions that provoke some “what if” scenarios that each company can start to work on.
For Visual Impressions, we are going to be working on how we can focus our attention on what has driven our past success, and what we need to do in order to replicate that success and drive more growth. As we are a key player in the textile contract decorating industry, our growth is going to be tied into finding new partners in the ad specialty, promotional item, and advertising industries. Our client base is already made up of many of the leading firms in these areas. Over the course of the class, we will determine our methodology and planning on how to attract more business from this sector and develop a successful game plan. What is truly wonderful about the Scale Up initiative so far, has been the fantastic dialog and interaction with other companies in the group and the leadership of the class instruction.
Full credit for the Scale Up Milwaukee initiative must be given to the Greater Milwaukee Committee (http://innovationinmilwaukee.com/), Mayor Tom Barrett, University Wisconsin-Milwaukee (http://www4.uwm.edu/), and American Express Open (https://www.openforum.com/explore/) for backing the project. This event could have been held in any number of major business areas in the United States. To start this endeavor in Milwaukee really shows that the area is truly “Open for Business”.