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Posted on: October 19, 2022

Peoria County Launches Dashboard to Guide Startups

On Wednesday, October 19, the Peoria County Board’s Advisory Committee for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development announced the creation of Start A Business Greater Peoria, a free online dashboard for those looking to start a business or who are in the early stages of development. It can be found at StartABusinessGP.org

Start A Business Greater Peoria’s goal is to connect community members to the right resources at the right time on their startup journey. Starting a business can feel overwhelming, and the free dashboard at StartABusinessGP.org is designed to alleviate some of that stress. It guides users to the support they need, helps them ask the right questions in the right order, and creates access to mentorship and advice at the right time. 

“Starting a business can feel daunting. Many people have great business or product ideas, but they aren’t sure how to get those ideas to fruition,” said Dr. Eden Blair, chairperson of the Advisory Committee for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development. “Today’s launch of Start A Business Greater Peoria is a monumental step forward in filling this need in our community. We have so many great resources for entrepreneurs in our area, and this dashboard can help ensure people are connected to those organizations and don’t feel like they are floundering in getting their idea off the ground. It is designed for those with ideas, big or small, to get the assistance they need to succeed.” 

The Greater Peoria area is fortunate to have an abundance of organizations focused on business development. Local mentors from the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Minority Business Development Center, Small Business Development Center, City of Peoria, Distillery Labs, Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Peoria Chamber of Commerce, and Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation have all stepped up to assist people in their startup journey and in working through the dashboard.

As users move through each step in the dashboard online, they complete a virtual “passport” by talking with local experts from a variety of fields including finance, marketing, legal, accounting, and insurance. Users will gain more knowledge about how to move forward toward launching their business, have their ideas validated or questioned, discover parts of their business plan they may need to improve, decide how best to structure their business, and more. After initial consultations with these local partners, the user may choose to engage more with them at their own initiative. 

In addition, the Peoria County Board has allocated $50,000 to assist entrepreneurs who have worked through the dashboard program and complete the passport. After completing the required steps, users may apply for a $5,000 business grant from Peoria County. While the dashboard and its resources are open and free for anyone to use, the grant portion of the process is specifically for people looking to start a business located in Peoria County. Non-profits are also eligible. The application to potentially receive a grant opens on January 1, 2023. Full details and eligibility requirements are available at www.startabusinessgp.org

The Peoria County Board’s Advisory Committee for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development was created last year to focus on conducting gap analyses of the Peoria County business environment and make recommendations on preparing entrepreneurs to become business owners. The website launch fulfills one of the committee’s goals to develop a Peoria County toolkit of resource availability to assist in small business development. 

The idea for an online dashboard was first discussed at the February 17, 2022, advisory committee meeting with examples of similar dashboard ideas from elsewhere. After Dr. Blair presented the idea to the Peoria County Board Executive Committee, Peoria County entered into contract with Lifting Up, LLC, a Peoria-based company founded by Kathleen Kelly. Its product, the SmartStart Dashboard, has been implemented locally in Morton, Illinois, as well as Muscatine, Iowa. 

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