Resources for Peoria-Area Entrepreneurs

Do you have an idea for an innovative product or service? Are you looking to start your own business? There is a wealth of resources available in the Peoria area to help you get started—and most of them won’t cost you a dime.

Turner Center for Entrepreneurship
The Robert & Carolyn Turner Center for Entrepreneurship is a not-for-profit program located at Bradley University. The centers which comprise the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship provide business counseling, technical assistance, training and educational activities for individuals interested in owning their own businesses. It also helps existing entrepreneurs and businesses who want to expand or take advantage of new opportunities and technologies, are interested in marketing their products and services internationally, or are seeking to commercialize new products and technologies.

The centers within the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship include:

  • Illinois Small Business Development Center. For over 15 years, the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship has provided free business counseling and low-cost training programs for existing and start-up businesses in central Illinois. The center has helped over 200 companies obtain loans in excess of $2.8 million to start or expand their businesses, which have created or retained more than 1,300 jobs. Some of the services offered include: business start-up assistance, business plan advice, growth strategies, financial statement analysis, management training seminars, student consulting projects, and marketing ideas. For more information, call (309) 677-2992 or email illinoissbdc@bradley.edu.
  • Illinois SBDC International Trade Center. Since 1989, the Illinois SBDC International Trade Center at Bradley University has helped hundreds of Illinois companies take advantage of the potential of the international marketplace. Working in conjunction with the NAFTA Opportunity Center, more than 500 companies have expanded their export sales by more than $80 million. The center helps to assess company readiness to export; identify potential export markets and foreign buyers; assist with foreign market entry, finance options and international business planning; and provide training programs. For more information, call (309) 677-3075 or email illinoissbdcitc@bradley.edu.
  • NAFTA Opportunity Center. The International Trade Center expanded in 1994 to include the NAFTA Opportunity Center—one of just two in the state with a focus on Canada and Mexico. Since that time, the center has helped hundreds of Illinois companies capitalize on the potential of free trade agreements around the world and maximize their export potential. Services include: one-on-one counseling on export issues, trade flow research, international agent/distributor searches, and interpretation and analysis of international regulations and other compliance issues. For more information, call (309) 677-3075.
  • Entrepreneurship Center. The center works with local entrepreneurs and potential high-growth businesses at all business life-cycle stages. By partnering with local, well-respected business growth organizations and universities, the center and the entrepreneurs they serve can tap into an abundance of resources and know-how already in place. The center does not duplicate existing services, but serves as an umbrella organization to coordinate services and programs currently available. For more information, call (309) 677-4321.


Pursuing Entrepreneurial Dreams

Some people are born to rise on the corporate ladder and be successful in organizations. Some are born to do it on their own. Robert “Bob” Turner chose to do it on his own, and now he and his wife are helping a new generation to do the same through Bradley’s Robert and Carolyn Turner Center for Entrepreneurship.

Established in 2000 through a $1.5 million gift from Bob and Carolyn Turner, the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship provides business counseling, technical assistance, training and educational activities for individuals interested in owning their own businesses. The Turner Center Lecture Series brings prominent entrepreneurs, authors and academics to Bradley to interact with members of the university and local community, and students learn firsthand what it takes to follow their dreams and succeed on their own.

Recently, the Turners provided another major gift as part of the Campaign for a Bradley Renaissance. This gift is unrestricted in the amount of $3 million. The University has recognized their generosity by creating the Turner Chair of Entrepreneurship.

“Carolyn and I are very happy to repay Bradley in some small way through the establishment of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship,” Bob Turner said. “It’s our hope the Center will allow Bradley not only to gain regional prominence, but national prominence as well. The additional gift and the new chair of entrepreneurship add depth and breadth to the program and entrepreneurial activities at Bradley.”

In August 2009, Dr. Gerry Hills joined Bradley as the first Turner Chair of Entrepreneurship. Dr. Hills is a nationally recognized scholar and professor of entrepreneurship, who most recently served as the Coleman Foundation Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship, executive director of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, and former associate dean at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is the past-president of the International Council for Small Business, co-founder and first president of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and co-founder and head of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Bob Turner graduated from Bradley in 1977 with a degree in accounting and received his MBA from the university a year later. His career began in the banking and insurance industries, but eventually he chose a different path—the path of an entrepreneur. Bob and his brother Mark, who also graduated from Bradley, started their own investment business in 1990. Today, as chairman and chief investment officer of Turner Investment Partners Inc., Bob and the Turner team manage more than $19 billion in assets.

Throughout his daily endeavors, Bob employs the values of hard work, provides others with opportunities, practices the skills of calculating risk and motivates employees to participate in the company’s growth. These are the values an education at Bradley’s Foster College of Business Administration and the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship provide the newest generation of professionals.

As Bob would say, the ideal entrepreneur is someone who has a passion for what he or she does and who has the desire to live out that passion through those endeavors. The Turner Center for Entrepreneurship embodies what Bob loves about being in business, the realities and excitement of being at the helm of one’s own destiny.

Reprinted courtesy of Bradley University

“Bradley’s Center for Entrepreneurship has been an invaluable resource as we continue to grow our companies,” says Brian Ford of Facet Technologies, Nerds On Call and Prairie Technology Alliance. “We have consulted with [them] in many ways, including reviewing business plans; advising on expansion, mergers and acquisitions; assisting my partners and me in forming Prairie Technology Alliance, and contributing on ecommerce and web-based projects. It is nice to know that they are always there to bounce ideas off of and discuss current trends. They are trusted advisors.”   

For more information about the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship and its related programs, visit bradley.edu/turnercenter.

Bradley Technology Commercialization Center
The Bradley Technology Commercialization Center (BTCC) works with researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs to transform new technologies and innovations into commercial enterprises. Its goal is to help entrepreneurs and early-stage companies develop clear paths to technology commercialization through business development, coaching and access to capital. In essence, the BTCC serves as the engine for technology incubation. By providing critical services to entrepreneurs, the BTCC can significantly increase the likelihood of success.

Tenant clients are housed in the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center at 801 West Main Street in Peoria and have access to a variety of resources. The building, which can house up to 27 companies, has 48,000 square feet spread across three levels. Once a company has "graduated" from the Innovation Center, it will move to its own facility in the community. The Innovation Center leverages the strengths of Caterpillar Inc., the USDA Ag Lab, Bradley University and other regional health-science and technology organizations.

If it wasn't for [the BTCC], our company wouldn't have happened,” says Raymond Willis, founder of iSoy Technologies. “The BTCC team is so trusted by local investors and entrepreneurs, it made the process much easier.”

To learn more about the services of the Bradley Technology Commercialization Center, call (309) 495-7238 or visit bradley.edu/btcc.

Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center
The Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at Illinois Central College is a no-cost outreach program for small and medium-sized businesses looking for contracting opportunities with government agencies and large companies. The program helps businesses connect with governmental agencies and large companies who have buying needs for commercial products and services. Procurement may seem complex to businesses who are not accustomed to this process—that’s where PTAC can help.

Congress established the Procurement Technical Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program in 1985 as a part of the Department of Defense (DOD) Authorization Act. The Illinois PTAC at ICC operates under a cooperative agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency, a division of the DOD, and is supported by the Illinois Entrepreneur Network, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Illinois Central College.

PTAC can answer questions about the procurement process, refer your business to other agencies and resources, and inform you of upcoming contracting opportunities. For more information, call (309) 690-6818 or email linda.krendick@icc.edu.

The Heartland Partnership
The Heartland Partnership family of companies includes under its umbrella the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council for Central Illinois (EDC), Peoria NEXT, Heart of Illinois Regional Port District (TransPORT), the Heartland Capital Network and the Heartland Foundation. With an emphasis on collaboration, these organizations work together to push the region forward.

For local entrepreneurs, the EDC can serve as your access point for business opportunities in central Illinois. The organization provides a wealth of economic data and can assist companies looking to relocate or expand in the region. More information about the company’s programs and services can be found at edc.centralillinois.org.

Peoria NEXT was created to capture research and intellectual property created in the region for the purpose of creating jobs and growing the local economy. Working in conjunction with the Bradley Technology Commercialization Center, Peoria NEXT facilitates the discovery, innovation and commercialization of new technologies. For more information, visit peorianext.com.

The Heartland Capital Network bridges the funding gap between promising ventures and the capital necessary to generate growth. There are several components to the network, including the Tri-County Venture Capital Fund, Heartland Venture Capital Network and Heartland Finance Network. The organization also provides an operational structure for the Central Illinois Angels, an angel investment organization composed of accredited investors who offer professional expertise and funding to early-stage opportunities in central Illinois and beyond. Learn more about the Angels at centralillinoisangels.com. For more information about the Heartland Partnership family of companies, visit heartlandpartnership.org.

SCORE
The Peoria chapter of SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Business) is part of a national nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of the nation’s small businesses. SCORE provides free, confidential business counseling tailored to meet the needs and personal objectives of the entrepreneur or small business.

SCORE volunteers are real-world professionals with time-tested knowledge who donate thousands of hours to help small businesses succeed. Counselors have backgrounds and experience in such areas as accounting, finance, marketing, manufacturing, management and technology.

More than four years after first working with the Peoria chapter of SCORE, IT360, a local technology company, continues to find their resources valuable. “Much of the progress and success that IT360 has achieved to date can be closely attributed to the relationship and guidance that we received years ago through our SCORE counselors,” says Don Dawson, company president. “In these challenging economic times, we find that the foundation that was laid then, and the advice that we have received over the years, is more relevant today than ever before.”

“In the past four years, the technology landscape has changed significantly,” adds Matt Machala, IT360 vice president.  “Throughout that change, our SCORE counselors have helped guide us though the strategies of managing sustainable growth, the hiring process and our marketing approach. In the near-future, we will be meeting with our counselors to discuss the loan process in order to facilitate further growth for our company.”

Sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Peoria SCORE chapter serves the following 10 counties in central Illinois: Peoria, Fulton, Knox, Marshall, Mason, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell, Warren and Woodford.

Visit scorepeoria.org or the national website at score.org for more information. For a counseling appointment, call (309) 676-0755.

Novus
Novus is a business networking group founded in 2004 by a handful of central Illinois entrepreneurs to help entrepreneurs connect with one another. They had found that while the Peoria area had many networking opportunities for established businesses, a need existed to support those individuals who were looking to step out on their own. Its simple mission is to foster and facilitate greater entrepreneurial success.

Novus is where you can meet other entrepreneurs walking the same path and learn about new ideas, funding, technologies and resources. If you have started a business or are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, all you need to do is show up at one of the group’s events.

Novus is not membership-based and does not charge an annual fee, just a $10 cover charge at its events. These events are generally held on the third Thursday of alternating months, from 5:30 to 8pm at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center. Speakers and topics vary from month to month. The admission price includes drinks and hors d’oeuvres. For more information about upcoming events, visit novusnetworking.com.

Other Resources
In addition to the Bradley Technology Commercialization Center and the various centers under the umbrella of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, other programs that can aid entrepreneurs are available at Bradley University.

The Executive Development Center at Bradley provides an array of open-enrollment and customized executive training programs—from leadership development to training in business skills—that can help individuals and organizations achieve their full potential. A development program can be created specifically for your organization, aligned with your strategic goals, and the center can provide individual business coaching as well. For more information, visit bradley.edu/edc or call 1-888-409-4740.

For small and mid-sized manufacturing firms, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC) on the Bradley campus can provide hands-on technical assistance and consulting services to help manufacturers innovate, contain manufacturing costs, streamline processes and increase profits. For more information, visit imec.org or call (309) 677-3765.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO) facilitates economic and business development in the state of Illinois. Under the banner of the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network (IEN), the department aggregates entrepreneurial information from various resources, including centers for entrepreneurship, small business development, procurement technical assistance and manufacturing across the state. It also produces The IEN Connection, a monthly newsletter with valuable information for Illinois entrepreneurs. Sign up at illinoisbiz.biz/dceo.

For those based in nearby Morton, the Morton Economic Development Council (EDC) is another option. The Morton EDC provides training, mentoring, networking and financial assistance to budding entrepreneurs, in addition to assisting local employers with challenges such as workforce recruitment and retention, workforce training, product and service promotion, cost saving measures, and infrastructure needs. More information is available at mortonedc.org.

Local chambers of commerce and other business networking groups can be valuable sources of information for aspiring entrepreneurs—and don’t forget to check out the list of useful links for entrepreneurs above, courtesy of Novus. iBi

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