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A Publication of WTVP

As entrepreneurs and members of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, we're excited about a new opportunity for entrepreneurs and emerging entrepreneurs in our community. Along with Bill Shay and Spence Wike, we've had the opportunity to work with staff at the Chamber, the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Heartland Illinois Technology Enterprise Center (HITEC) to begin an entrepreneur network.

Entrepreneurs are reshaping our economy. We're all familiar with the statistics: Small businesses generate two-thirds of all new jobs and are the source of more than half of the total economic output of the entire nation. A critical factor, then, to our region's future prosperity is the continuous creation and nurturing of entrepreneurs. Doing so will also increase community receptivity to entrepreneurship, engendering ever more business start-ups and prosperity.

While the Peoria area excels in providing networking opportunities for established businesses, the Regional Bioscience Strategy for Central Illinois, done in 2001 by the Battelle Memorial Institute and leading to the formation of Peoria NEXT, noted that a major weakness in our community is a lack of a comprehensive entrepreneurial support infrastructure. This finding mobilized the business support organizations mentioned above and others to look at ways to build that support infrastructure. After much research of best practices from other communities, it became clear that one portion of the solution to this issue is to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to meet together and build supportive relationships with each other.

The Chamber, the Turner Center, and HITEC asked us to lead the formation of this opportunity. Entrepreneurs are in the best position to know what will work for their peers, and we're excited to be in on the ground floor of this effort. Novus-Entrepreneur Network for Central Illinois is being launched this month. Our mission is to foster and facilitate greater entrepreneurial success. It'll serve as a forum where new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs can meet; brainstorm; learn about new ideas, funding, technologies, and resources; and generally support each other.

Entrepreneurs have abundant energy and innovative ideas. They have clear ideas about how their product or service can fill a market need and make money, but they're often in need of knowledge and resources to lead their dream to fruition. Seasoned entrepreneurs have experience. Additionally, where one entrepreneur may be strong, another may need help. Novus will bridge the gap to create a flourishing entrepreneurial economy in the Peoria area.

As we begin this adventure, Novus will host informal meetings every other month at various locations throughout the community. Our networking events will include an information component provided by a guest speaker, with plenty of time to make connections, start or further develop relationships with other entrepreneurs, and share ideas–with a bit of food and drink before and after the speaker. Over time-and with your involvement-Novus will grow and evolve, like all organizations.

As a participant with Novus, you can share your knowledge of or learn more about business-to-building topics such as strategic thinking, brand building and positioning, access to capital, partnering and strategic alliances, and much more.

Our kick-off event, sponsored by the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, takes place from 5:30 to 8 p.m., January 15, at the Bradley University Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts Gallery. Our speaker will be Tom Lemanski, president and founder of Vista Development in Kildeer. Tom works as a performance facilitator and consultant to principals in a wide variety of product and service industries. A Bradley University alumnus, he has many years of experience in all aspects of starting and growing both manufacturing and service enterprises.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, we encourage you to attend and bring a like-minded friend or colleague. There's a $10 fee for participants.

We have every confidence that Novus will be an important part of the economy-energizing activity in our area. By taking part, not only will you and your company benefit, but you'll be helping build a prosperous future for local entrepreneurship and our entire region. We hope to see you there. IBI

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