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WNC Business

New resource connects small businesses to Entrepreneurial Support Organizations

May 11, 2023 02:02AM ● By Randee Brown

With so many entrepreneurial support organizations throughout the state of North Carolina, Supportedly Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Kissel saw an opportunity to help connect entrepreneurs to the support that they need to grow their business at whatever growth level they are in.

Supportedly is a free online platform that helps business owners find the support, advice, and access to capital that they may need. “We were just a directory at first, then we discovered that there is a deeper need to connect these entrepreneurs to the right entrepreneurial support organization for where they are in their business journey,” Kissel said. “Now, they will no longer have to dig through multiple websites; they can go directly to the organization and program that suits them best.”

Kissel said that anyone in the state can use the Supportedly platform to get right to region-specific content, share their journey and their business, watch videos of fellow entrepreneurs giving industry-specific advice, engage in peer-to-peer learning, find applicable ESOs, and interact with other entrepreneurs to ask questions and gain feedback. 

The organization is working on a new directory-piloting navigator program that should be launched toward the end of April, according to Kissel, which can provide entrepreneurs a match to the specific support they need in the area in which they operate. Since not everyone will visit the Supportedly website directly, this system offers a plugin that can also be installed on the websites of ESOs without breaking the user’s experience. They will get curated listing links to websites’ programs and options of places where they can learn more.

“Organizations using that host navigator on their site will have the ability to add, update, or archive their own programs,” Kissel said. “It’s a tool that the entire ESO community can proactively help keep updated, allowing the community to stay on top of the most recent additions.”

With funding coming from a Dogwood Health Trust grant, this dynamic tool provides a wholistic look at what the startup ecosystem provides throughout the state. “Supportedly will be able to offer its services at no cost through June of 2024 for DHT’s area footprint, and we can embed the plugin on sites for free until then,” Kissel said. “After that time, we still want this to be a low barrier, affordable annual subscription-based tool for organizations.” 

Supportedly will continue to add functionality and perform needed updates to sustain the tool, as well as add additional curated core business training pieces and specific webinars from small business centers, according to Kissel. She said that additional webinars from other organizations may be added to the website as well.

Supportedly also offers entrepreneurs the ability to ask questions, some of which Kissel answers herself. She said that if she doesn’t know the answer or if someone needs a specific recommendation, she will happily make an introduction to a known, trusted connection within the community. If she receives similar questions from a variety of individuals, she said that helps her to pinpoint topics that would create good blog posts to generalize advice for entrepreneurs.

“We are also working to launch an asynchronous program for entrepreneurs to ask and answer questions for each other,” Kissel said. “Creating more community as well as connectivity to these startup ecosystems can create a higher rate of entrepreneur success in a meaningful way.”

Kissel reflected on what she said was a profound moment with leaders in economic development in Catawba County when someone said that they need to get large organizations and manufacturers to the area. She said that while everyone does believe that is important, one individual responded that what is most important is to support the smaller Main Street businesses, as those must be in place for the larger businesses to want to come.

“Every single business in Western North Carolina is important,” Kissel said. “They all support and bolster the economy. Small businesses provide the majority of jobs, and even solopreneurs are important to building the ecosystem. This holistic approach to connecting entrepreneurs to each other and to ESOs is imperative to support businesses of all sizes.”

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