Have You Met NED? (LEAP’s New Economy Division)
Who is NED?
NED isn’t a person, but a program. Actually, a number of programs, events, funding options and resources meant to boost entrepreneurship in the tri-county region. The New Economy Division (See? NED.) at LEAP encompasses all of these individual items that work together to meet Lansing’s entrepreneurial needs.
NED’s Purpose (We all want to know our purpose in life, this is NED’s…)
NED was born from a need. When someone wants to become an entrepreneur in the Tri-County region and they ask, “How do I do it?” NED is there to answer that question. When NED was born four years ago, says Tony Willis, Director of NED, “there was a lack of agency focusing on the entrepreneurial activities in the region.” The area needed more innovation and more programs to spur entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs needed a way to break into the entrepreneur community. So, NED was born as an entry point into the industry.
“That’s why events like the Hatching were created,” says Tony. “They get you in a room with people that can help you.”
NED Can Be Your Guide…
NED is that extroverted friend that knows the hottest events and knows everyone attending those events and wants to introduce you, his shy introverted friend, to everyone at those events. He’s got the inside track on exactly where entrepreneurs need to be and how they can make the most of the ecosystem they have now been introduced to. He will take you by the hand and lead you from the initial entry point (events like The Hatching where you pitch your business idea) to the places that will be the most beneficial to you (events like Startup Weekend where you can dig into your idea and hash it out with other entrepreneurs).
And, once you are fully engaged and immersed in the community, NED can help you rub elbows and get the funding needed to take your idea to the next level. From Maker Week to various Boot Camps to a wide variety of speaking engagements, once you know NED, you’ll know where to look for the most valuable information and resources to build your business.
With NED leading the way, LEAP hopes to give Lansing and the surrounding areas one cohesive path through the entrepreneur journey, starting early on. “We’ve had kids from our youth startup challenge (a challenge which gives high school students an entry point into the community) start looking into the entrepreneurship minor at MSU,” says Tony. And the plan is to let NED guide them from the minor into the community where they can use their education to find success. They also hope they can move that entry point even farther up in that student’s career.
NED Understands Lansing…
As a region with unique challenges, Lansing just wanted to be understood. And NED gets that. NED was formed to help solve Lansing’s specific problems and challenges.
Like the fact that while Lansing is a community of builders and tinkerers, for a long time there were not programs meant to support those that wanted to build a business from their creations. But through NED, programs like Lansing PROTO were created to help those hands on folks get more serious about tinkering and actually bring their products to life.
“There has been a lot of programming for small business but not tech startups or product businesses,” says Tony, “these Bootcamps and programs address the questions we get the most like, ‘how do I get a patent?'”
NED is also always looking for new ways to engage new entrepreneurs. In the next few months, he hopes to begin connecting with the refugee community here in Lansing. “We have a great pool of talent there,” says Tony, “And we want to incorporate them into the ecosystem.”
Not Bad, NED. Not Bad…
NED’s not all talk, he’s actually done what he set out to do and just last year he helped form 31 new companies. From those companies, 61 employees and founders were created. He’s also helped raise 2.4 million in funding.
“Across the board,” says Tony, “it’s about changing the culture and making sure people don’t think there is nothing going on in Lansing.”
NED Looks Ahead
When it comes to the future, NED always wants to do more. In 2016, LEAP hopes that NED will encompass even more events and extend his reach even further, partnering with new schools and organizations, helping new groups of people and breaking into new industries.
To find out how NED can help you and your entrepreneurial endeavors, visit the new business tab on LEAP’s website.