Omaha, Nebraska – The Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) is partnering with two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Catalyst Award winners to promote entrepreneurship in Nebraska and assist innovators in applying for and obtaining SBIR funding.
The 2021 SBIR Catalyst competition was conducted by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to spur investment in underrepresented communities within the innovation economy. Each of the eight SBIR Catalyst winners received $150,000 to help fulfill the SBA mission of addressing gaps in access to the innovation economy for communities of color, women entrepreneurs and rural communities.
Through the Oklahoma Catalyst Programs (OK Catalyst), part of the University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Innovation Hub, the NBDC and four other partner universities are participating in the Hub of the Heartland program. In Nebraska, the goal is to utilize the Hub of the Heartland accelerator programs to assist rural entrepreneurs in obtaining SBIR grants through the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
The NBDC is also partnering with BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting (BBCetc), headquartered in Chelsea, Mich., which will use its SBIR Catalyst award to expand and deepen the SBIR assistance it provides to women entrepreneurs.
The BBCetc award includes 14 partners across 12 states, including the Sustainable Heartland Accelerator Regional Partnership Hub (SHARPhub), a BBCetc-managed initiative accelerator program. The NBDC offers professional guidance on applying for SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) government funding in one-on-one sessions and in webinars, such as the Medical Innovations series provided in partnership with UNeMed and SHARPhub.
The NBDC is referring relevant clients to the BBCetc Catalyst Advantage Network and to the OK Catalyst Hub of the Heartland program, says NBDC Technology Commercialization Director Josh Nichol-Caddy.
The Hub of the Heartland is a one-year pilot to expand OK Catalyst’s award-winning programs for startup support in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri while also creating a regional network of key experts and resources to launch dozens of startups across the region.
Tom Wavering, executive director of the University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Innovation Hub, says studies indicate that underrepresented entrepreneurs face unique challenges. In 2020, the Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City-based nonprofit that conducts entrepreneurial research, surveyed entrepreneurs in the region to identify the challenges with starting ventures. The survey found that 40 percent faced geographical barriers, 44 percent faced network barriers and 47 percent faced knowledge barriers.
Wavering says the Hub of the Heartland model utilizes partners in each of the network states to raise awareness of the various resources available and leverage that knowledge to connect these resources, such as the OK Catalyst accelerator programs, with entrepreneurs beyond Oklahoma.
“We have a commonality of challenges,” he says. “By building a longstanding collaboration through the Hub of the Heartland, we can ensure that these resources are no longer siloed in little pockets in each state. We see the NBDC as the focal point of our connection with the Nebraska entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
BBCetc Sr. Principal Consultant Jerry Hollister says the BBCetc Catalyst initiative will identify and invest in women entrepreneurs through training provided by Capita3, an early-stage venture capital fund. Capita3 invests seed capital and provides specialized leadership training for women entrepreneurs and the companies they are building.
“BBCetc and Capita3 are woman-owned businesses, so the Catalyst Advantage Network is more than the result of an award, it represents a passionate commitment to the success of women entrepreneurs,” Hollister says. “We will coach women entrepreneurs through the SBIR process and act as their advocates throughout the journey.”
Anyone interested in obtaining more information about SBIR funding and the resources available through the Hub of the Heartland program or the BBCetc Catalyst Advantage Network may contact Josh Nichol-Caddy at email@example.com or by phone at 402-554-4092.
The Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) helps Nebraska businesses start, grow and develop, by strengthening Nebraska businesses for a healthy economy and prosperous communities. NBDC is a University of Nebraska at Omaha center that provides confidential consulting business development services across Nebraska to entrepreneurs and business owners for the life cycle of their business. NBDC partners with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Wayne State College, and Chadron State College to deliver its services statewide. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the U.S. Department of Commerce (EDA), and other federal, state and private organizations support NBDC. Visit nbdc.unomaha.edu for more information.
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