IGNITE is ideal for very early stage businesses who may not have as much capital or planning in place to participate in other accelerators and a good first step on the path to an incubator program.
Name of Accelerator: IGNITE Community Accelerator
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Program Director: Kerri Eichwald
Executive Director of Ingenuity, Inc.: Kyle Lee
This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.
In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.
IGNITE Community Accelerator provides focused education, training, mentoring, coaching and leadership. We want to help early stage businesses develop an action plan, financial structure and customer base to ensure the highest probability of success. By partnering with local industry leaders, participants learn in real time the concepts key for sustainability and growth while networking for future opportunities.
Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.
IGNITE is offered at no charge to ventures accepted in the program with a focus on underserved/minority populations. CNM faculty and local business owners provide instruction and business coaching so the information is relevant to the community, emphasizing the resources and services available after completing the program. IGNITE is ideal for very early stage businesses who may not have as much capital or planning in place to participate in other accelerators. Also, it is a good first step on the path to an incubator program.
What is the most difficult part of working with startups?
Inexperienced business owners can become overwhelmed and give up due to “decision fatigue.” The work that goes into customer validation is difficult, time consuming, and can be discouraging. However, it is critical to marketing strategies and future success. Business owners will clash over responsibilities and accountability; ultimately, they will part ways at the price of their relationship.
What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?
Every improvement or innovation feels like success for everyone! The camaraderie the participants enthusiastically give one another fuels their drive to continue. The imagination, energy, and desire to create something that solves a problem can’t be underestimated in its ability to change the world!
Tell us about your success stories; which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?
Akamee Baca Malta, owner of As Girls Grow, developed a line of toys designed to engage girls in engineering at a young age. As Girls Grow is building future STEM leaders by combining physical toys, digital play and story book characters.
Carmelita Medina-Minick designed FanSeat – an ergonomic portage stadium seat. This is a solution to sitting on hard metal bleachers at her children’s athletic events. FanSeat has been accepted into the Oregon Duck Incubator, and will be licensed and sold online and in the “Duck Stores”.
Christopher “Check-It” Lim combined his love of exotic reptiles with his incredible talent for break dancing to form the Dancing Turtle, LLC. As a onetime member of the U.S. National Break-dancing team, Lim opened his dance studio to inspire and train the next generation of break dancers. Only he found his students were mesmerized by his pets! He took the opportunity to teach the children about caring for the animals, and grew the side business to compliment his dance studio. The Dancing Turtle now hosts exhibitions and contests. They have also moved to a larger studio to accommodate the increased demand and growing student base.
What are the three most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?
Very often early startups/pre-venture companies are not realistic in their value proposition and resist the need to change or pivot their companies to be viable.
- The most important factor for our entrepreneurs is to have the ability to listen carefully to suggestions from potential customers and business coaches, while also applying what they hear to their current business model. An openness to critique and willingness to change is crucial to refining an evolving experiment in business development.
- Tenacity and dedication to the process is key to success! Patience and determination to learn, along with an openness to critique, creates the foundation for growth. It’s difficult to start something new and some drop out due to how much hard work is required. Before attending an accelerator, the entrepreneur must be ready to do some heavy lifting.
- There is no such thing as failure. If experience teaches and knowledge is gained, it was worthwhile. Entrepreneurs must develop a thick skin while remaining agile, welcome complaints, and appreciate the opportunity that comes from learning about weaknesses, deficiencies, and customer disappointments.
What else would you like to share?
The IGNITE Community Accelerator is in a unique position to offer business education to the diverse, underserved / underprivileged communities to draw from the entrepreneurial spirit unique to these populations. By offering this training at no cost to the participants, the IGNITE Community Accelerator eliminates a barrier of entry experienced by minorities, women-owned, and veteran-run businesses.
The participants gain experience and learn valuable skills that will benefit them, their families, and their communities in the future. The relationships developed in the program by the company owners, coaches, and community business leaders lead to future opportunities to grow the local economy.
Are you familiar with other accelerators you believe should be highlighted? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them in the comments below!