Guest Column: ALEAP works with rising entrepreneurs

Published 9:32 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

Guest Column by Noelle Hagen

Entrepreneurs and small business owners support our economy by offering 47.9 percent of jobs in Minnesota at over 500,000 businesses. Entrepreneurship may be a dream of many, but it’s not always an easy road.

Many of our local companies started when someone had an idea and turned that idea into a successful business. Entrepreneurship has strong roots in our community; just look around, and you will see numerous examples of successful entrepreneurs.

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In order to help existing businesses grow and startups be successful, Albert Lea Entrepreneurial Advancement Program was created. The ALEAP project started with a group of local people who attended a Blandin Community Leadership Program together, ALEDA and a partnership with a local marketing company. The five areas of focus are:

Noelle Hagen

1. Creating a monthly networking and mentoring program

2. Creating co-working space

3. Offering educational opportunities and training programs

4. Hosting a “Shark Tank” event to highlight the importance of entrepreneurs to the community

5. Offering a micro-lending program

The program centers around the monthly networking gathering on the third Thursday of the month. In January, the participants of ALEAP gave feedback on what they would benefit most from and the topics they would like to see featured. Since January we have offered a variety of events and continue to try new ideas. The most recent ALEAP gathering was ‘topic night’ in which the participants discussed a topic they voted on prior to the event, and at the event they shared experiences and ideas with one another.

In August, ALEAP will host the first Pitch Night. During this event, each participant will give a 30-second elevator pitch describing their idea or their business. Practicing an elevator pitch prepares entrepreneurs for that chance encounter when they meet someone who may have a big influence on their business or may help them achieve their startup dreams. Feedback will be given from peers, and an opportunity to present their pitches again will arise at a follow-up event.

In September, ALEAP and Snap Fitness in Albert Lea will host Speaker Night. ALEAP participants will have the opportunity to hear Joe and Mollee Tscholl’s story of small business ownership and what inspires them, the challenges they have faced and how they balance their business and family life.

We encourage everyone in Freeborn County who is interested in starting a business, owns a small business or has been in business for decades to join us at upcoming events. To stay up-to-date on the events, watch for announcements in the Albert Lea Tribune and on the ALEAP Facebook Page (@ALEAPteam).

Noelle Hagen is the small business and marketing manager at Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.