Innovation Muskoka – Advisory Panels for Business
In today’s rapidly changing global economy the importance of entrepreneurship to local economies is gaining more and more focus. It is generally accepted that entrepreneurs and new start-ups can have a more significant impact on economic development in rural communities than larger enterprises, if the appropriate business support mechanisms are available. Further, it is the communities themselves that need to take the initiative to establish the necessary resources to ensure a successful outcome.
For nearly 25 years Muskoka Futures has been providing some of this necessary infrastructure through its business loans, counseling and other programs, such as Innovation Muskoka, and by partnering with other local organizations on economic development initiatives. Since 2006, Innovation Muskoka has provided more than 75 area businesses with access to a business mentor to help guide them through start-up and expansion.
Building on the success of the mentorship program, Muskoka Futures partnered with the Muskoka Community Network in November of 2011 and hosted an Innovation Muskoka event, which included guest speakers, a panel of local business success stories, and an “Innovation Sandbox”. The Sandbox was an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to “pitch” their ideas to a panel of experienced business people, in a Dragon’s Den type of format. The objective of making a pitch was not for investment, but rather to receive advice from a range of successful local business people.
As we observed the various businesses receiving advice from multiple mentors, a new concept for Innovation Muskoka began to emerge: Advisory Panels. Coincidentally, this new concept was also the focus of one of the success story panelists, who credited much of his business success to the support and mentoring he received from an Advisory Panel.
Over the next few months Muskoka Futures will be running a Pilot Project providing Advisory Panels to assist 4 or 5 local businesses. While Innovation Muskoka has primarily focused on new businesses to date, this Pilot Project will focus on entrepreneurs who are ready to take their business to the next level. Although specific program criteria are currently being developed, a key consideration in the selection of participating businesses in this Pilot Project will be the potential for business expansion and job creation.
The Advisory Panels are expected to consist of several experienced business people per participating business, with each panel member providing different skill sets and experiences. The volunteer advisors will commit to working with a business for up to 4 months. In addition, participating business and advisors will contribute their experiences in this Pilot Project to the development of a longer-term Mentorship and Advisory Panel program in Muskoka.
Muskoka Futures is currently recruiting for volunteer panelists who can contribute a minimum of 3 hours, once a month, to one or more participating businesses. If you, or someone you know, would be interested in working closely with a local business to support their growth, please out the Application Form for Business Advisor below.
If you are a business interested in the Advisory Panel Pilot Project, please contact our Innovation Muskoka Project Coordinator, Robert Connolly at: 705-571-6622.
Please download the above form(s) and email to David Brushey here.