Building a Better Business Using Local Resources

Abby Green
Bradley University

Two professional centers offer resources for area businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.

Above: Digital Dipstick, a client of Bradley University’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, took home the Best Business Pivot Award at Brave Launch 2017, a business acceleration competition.

What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the Foster College of Business at Bradley University? Business startups, consulting and professional development may not be at the top of your list. However, as a nationally ranked institution for business education, the Foster College not only has resources for students, but also for businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals in the community. That support is provided through two professional centers, the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Professional Excellence, which are committed to establishing, growing and retaining business in Peoria and its surrounding areas

Turner Center for Entrepreneurship
The Turner Center for Entrepreneurship strives to be the premier source for entrepreneurial training, education and counseling assistance to startup and existing small businesses in central Illinois. Through its multiple entities—the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Illinois SBDC International Trade Center and Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center—the Turner Center provides business counseling, technical assistance, training and educational activities. It helps individuals and organizations expand upon or take advantage of new opportunities and technologies, market products and services internationally, or commercialize new products and technologies. Since 2001, the Center has served more than 10,000 clients in the Peoria area—and all assistance and counseling are done at no charge to the client. One of these clients is Natural Fiber Welding (NFW), a chemistry- and technology-based company offering sustainable alternatives to nonrenewable plastics and producing high-value materials from low-cost, highly functional, naturally occurring fibers.

Incorporated in 2015, NFW leaned on the Turner Center as a resource in its initial formation and strategy setting. Through a practice investor pitch session organized by the Center, NFW was able to meet an investment group that ended up leading the organization’s first investment round. Since then, the connection between NFW and the Turner Center has remained tight. Ross Miller, Director of Technology Commercialization, participated on the NFW team for the National Science Foundation's I-corps program in Atlanta, for example. More recently, as NFW looks to ship product internationally, the Turner Center has provided valuable guidance on that process.

NFW is currently engaged with large textile and apparel companies and actively sampling yarns and fabrics. With a rapidly growing team of 20 employees, it will continue to expand in the Peoria area.

Center for Professional Excellence
The Center for Professional Excellence offers public programs, customized corporate solutions, and professional coaching and assessment services. In the most recent five-year period, the Center served an average of 700 people a year. It is one of four national affiliates of the Center for Creative Leadership, a North Carolina-based company that is consistently top-ranked globally as a provider of leadership development programs.

UnityPoint Health has experienced firsthand the benefits provided through the Center’s programs. After an internal assessment, the health system opted to send 17 members of its leadership team to refine their strategic agility skills. The Center’s personnel met with executives and other experts to pinpoint challenges, developing a deep understanding of all parts of the organization and the healthcare industry. After completing this process, the participants developed three potential action plans for implementation into the medical provider’s strategies, shared UnityPoint’s Vice President and Regional Human Resources Officer Joy Ledbetter. “Being able to think strategically and focus on long-term results is key to being an effective leader,” she says of the customized program.

By developing talent, the Center produces results for its clients. When a manufacturing client came through its doors, the goal was to improve performance. After working together, the company grew its bottom-line revenue by 16 percent, turning around the entire operation and becoming the best performer of five subsidiaries in its group.

Whether you are a startup or an established organization, there are multiple ways you can partner with the Foster College of Business. Through a broad portfolio of services, we are able to help you achieve your business goals. Let yours be the next success story we tell. iBi

Abby Green is director of marketing and communications for the Foster College of Business. For more information, contact her at aegreen@bradley.edu.

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