Sunday, October 26, 2014

Economic gardening program boosts established businesses

Posted on Sept. 5, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Sept. 5, 2013 at 2:20 p.m.

GOSHEN — When people have an established business they’d like to expand, sometimes it feels like they’re spinning their wheels just trying to keep up.

That’s where the economic gardening program comes in.

“It’s about taking it to the next level,” said Kregg Kiel, entrepreneur-in-residence at Elevate Ventures, the nonprofit venture development firm which has run the economic gardening program on behalf of the state since January 2012.

It’s a program that connects business operators with consultants and peers to give them detailed plans on expanding their company.

“Economic gardening specialists function much like an outside team of experts. Their goal is not to dictate or implement solutions, but to help CEOs identify issues that might be hindering growth,” Kiel said. They also point the CEOs to new tools, concepts and information to help make better decisions, Kiel said.

“The majority of the people who go through the program love it. I’m excited to provide it to them. It’s a no-brainer,” Kiel said.

One thing that sometimes holds people back is the amount of time it takes to do the several hours of interviews necessary for the program. However, “this may be why you want to do this. Going forward you won’t be spinning your wheels quite so much,” Kiel said.

To qualify for the program, a company must be a for-profit private company headquartered and operating in Indiana. The company needs to have between $750,000 and $25 million in annual revenue and between five and 100 employees. Qualifying companies have to have been in Indiana for at least the last two years, must have grown in employment and/or revenue for two of the last five years, and have to offer products and services to a regional or international market.

“We want companies that are moving forward but may have hit a snag or are looking for an extra boost,” Kiel said.

The program evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the company, and the Edward Lowe Foundation provides participants with a proposal for managers to take the next steps to grow the business. Participants also get a detailed leadership analysis and they’re connected with a peer roundtable for advice and help.

“They may not take the advice wholeheartedly, but most do, and those that do tend to benefit greatly,” Kiel said.

So far in the north central part of the state, 31 companies have participated. The participants put an average value of the services at $10,000, and those companies saw an estimated 51 percent revenue growth over the last year, according to statistics from Elevate Ventures. They also saw a 17 percent growth in employment over the last year.

“The growth in revenue and employment both benefit the state of Indiana, which is what our mandate is,” Kiel said.

People can apply for the program at www.elevateventures.com/programs/economic-gardening.