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Grow Your Business

Have your own million-dollar idea, but don’t know how to develop it into a business?

In 2013, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Office of Entrepreneurship supported more than 2,000 businesses in a variety of ways, from providing collateral support for loans to conducting pitch contests (similar to ABC’s Shark Tank).

They’ve helped set up million-dollar angel investor groups in towns that have never had such a fund. They’ve instituted entrepreneurial programs for high-schoolers (the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs) and college students (Idea State U, a statewide business plan competition that offers $100,000 in prizes—money to be used for real-world business expenses, not scholarships).

“The idea behind what we’re doing here is to empower people, to say ‘Yes, you can do this, and it doesn’t matter where you are, you can be a success and we will help you along the way,'” says Joe Lilly, executive director of the cabinet’s Office of Research and Public Affairs.

The front line of the cabinet’s efforts is the Kentucky Innovation Network, a system of 13 offices across the state, from Paducah to Pikeville. The offices serve as one-stop shops to assist entrepreneurs at every stage of development, from concept to rollout, free of charge. The Web site is http://kyinnovation.com.

The Innovation Network was originally focused on high-tech ventures. Now, Lilly says, “no tech, low tech, high tech—it’s for anybody. It doesn’t matter what your idea is: if it’s a good idea, it’s innovative, and the Kentucky Innovation Network can help.”

The cabinet administers a number of programs for entrepreneurs, including credit initiatives and tax credits, through its Office of Entrepreneurship (www.ThinkKentucky.com).

To Mandy Lambert, commissioner of the cabinet’s Office of Business Development, the most popular of the several credit programs has been Kentucky Collateral Support Program (KYCSP), in which the state pledges up to 20 percent of a loan’s value to help businesses that can qualify in most respects but don’t have sufficient assets to serve as collateral for a bank loan.

The funds the KYCSP pledges “allow that bank to make a loan they would not otherwise have done,” Lambert says.

Through KYCSP and other small-business credit initiatives, Lambert says, “We’ve been able to leverage these funds to secure millions and millions of dollars of small-business lending that would not have happened.”

According to figures supplied by the Cabinet, it has put up more than $5 million (from federal State Small Business Credit Initiative funds) to generate almost $49 million in private sector financing.

And Lambert points out that 80 percent of the loans have been made in low- to moderate-income areas.

Another resource for small business is the Kentucky Small Business Development Center’s newly established KyBIZinfo Web site, www.kybizinfo.com.

The site is designed to allow business owners to search for providers who offer a variety of expertise, from business planning to financial resources to selling to the government, and filter the results by region to find the ones closest to them.

At present, according to KSBDC director Becky Naugle, all of the resources are nonprofit or governmental. In the future, if users want for-profit services listed as well, she says they may be added.


Read the Kentucky Living January 2015 feature that goes along with this Web exclusive. Follow That Dream.

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