The risks, challenges and ambiguities facing a new entrepreneur can be very daunting. But did you know that joining an incubator can significantly improve the probability of success for your business? Make sure to tap into this rich ecosystem of support and get the best of the experience.
Over the span of the past two years, I have had exposure to 8 different incubators and their programs. The support may vary in structure and resources but I learned that the key strategies for success within this ecosystem are pretty consistent. Here are 5 tips to making this experience enriching, fun and more supportive:
- Be a good student: Every new entrepreneur has a sharp learning curve ahead. We bring strong experience when it comes to some aspects of our business vision but building it up has many components, from product development to finance to marketing to communications and more. Incubators provide resources in every aspect and the best way to gain insight from those is to show up with a mindset open for learning and growth. I did not imagine I would be reverting back to doing homework mid-career but I am.
- You have to ask: The resources of this community extend far beyond the formal programming we start with. The best way to stay tuned is to keep up with communications for further opportunities and to ask for more. Every entrepreneur’s journey and pace is different so when you reach a challenge and need extra support, this is a safe space to seek help as challenges come up.
- Tap into the peer network: It really helps to not be alone in managing the learning process and lifestyle of being an entrepreneur. And sharing ideas can create solutions and new opportunities for you in a surprisingly easy way. I also love to learn from peers about the journey and motivations behind the decision to tackle entrepreneurship.
- Make the most of one-on-one mentorship: These conversations can be very insightful. I love to hear the stories of my mentor’s journey behind the achievements I have heard about. It is motivating and a good source for ideas. To make the most of this dedicated time, come prepared ahead by learning about the mentor’s past expertise, noting your recent updates and challenges, and planning what you want assistance with. And lastly, collect the feedback and incorporate it into your thought process for planning ahead. I take a lot of notes.
- Seek review for your work: From the business model canvas and pitch presentations to simply checking the quality of a social media post, your work can benefit from the review of an expert. Share this work and ask for recommendations. Understand why they recommend a certain approach and apply it accordingly. Continuously building on this insight can really transform the effectiveness of your business planning.
BONUS SUGGESTION: Share your own expertise with others and give back to the community. This will strengthen your relationship with the ecosystem further, grow your expertise and create unique opportunities. We are all very busy running around as entrepreneurs but I do encourage you to take a little time to invest in this cycle of radical generosity. Give back as a resource and mentor for others.
Here are some great local incubators/accelerators that have great programs and leadership to support your journey:
- EDGE – Sheridan College – great programs from idea to scale up stages in our local area
- ICUBE UTM – great programs from idea to scale up stages in our local area
- Innovation Guelph – specific programs for women or agriculture industry may be just fit for you
- Startup Canada and its local chapters – lots of free resources, events and advocacy for entrepreneurs across Canada
- Climate Ventures | Accelerating climate solutions
- Communitech – for startups and scaling tech companies
- Toronto Enterprise Fund – specifically focused on GTA-based employment social enterprises
- Search for more industry and location specific options in your area
Pictured: Individual work space available at EDGE, incubator located at Sheridan College’s Mississauga campus (closed during COVID-19)