Were you mentored during the startup and early stages of your company? How did it help you? The Small Business Administration (SBA) wants to know.
The SBA has put out a Request for Information seeking input from entrepreneurs and the general public on ideas for “creating and leveraging existing entrepreneurial mentoring and education programs for early-stage, high-growth companies.”
The request is part of a national innovation strategy that President Obama presented last September. The president urged action to increase innovation that would encourage sustainable economic growth and create high-quality jobs. The Obama Innovation Strategy includes initiatives focused on education and training for entrepreneurs.
An example is the active role the federal government has taken to encourage student achievement and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The goal of improving excellence in these subject areas will lay the foundation for the next generation of innovative thinkers and innovative businesses.
Now, the focus is moving to high-growth small businesses. For the purposes of this Request for Information, the SBA hasn't firmly defined what “high-growth” means, but some definitions include the following guidelines: doubling in revenues over a four-year period; doubling sales over that period; reaching a large customer base outside your local area (as opposed to, say, a local drycleaner). One of the most common definitions is a business that has potential to grow beyond 500 employees in size or to more than $50 million in annual sales.
High-growth companies are important to the federal government's initiative because they have greater potential to create more jobs. The ultimate goal of the Obama Innovation Strategy is to help improve these new companies' chance of surviving, thriving and hiring employees.
Mentoring is one of the best ways of helping high-growth companies get beyond their initial hurdles. The current Request for Information has two areas of focus: First, understanding how high-growth companies' needs might differ from those of other companies; two, understanding the best practices for how entrepreneurial education can prepare new entrepreneurs or existing entrepreneurs to lead high-growth companies.
Have you been part of a mentorship program or entrepreneurship education program that worked (or didn't work)? Do you have ideas for how existing mentoring or entrepreneurship education programs could be improved, or for new programs that could be created?
How could greater awareness be created about the existence of mentorship or entrepreneurship education programs and how they can help entrepreneurs? These are just some of the questions for which the Request for Information is seeking answers.
As entrepreneurs, we don't often get opportunities for the government to listen to our insights on how programs can help us and what we need. If you have any insights or ideas, you have until July 12 to respond. For details and a list of areas where the SBA is seeking input, visit The Federal Register listing.