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Kentucky’s Office of Entrepreneurship Helps Small Businesses

Seen on Business Lexington
Posted June, 27 2014

BY KATHIE STAMPS

In its first year, the Office of Entrepreneurship has supported more than 2,000 small businesses across the state. Created in July 2013 by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the Office of Entrepreneurship is rolling out program after program for current and future owners of small businesses.

“If anyone in Kentucky is looking to start or grow a business, we can help,” said Mandy Lambert, the office’s interim executive director. “The goals of the Office of Entrepreneurship are to develop an entrepreneurial climate in Kentucky, provide guidance and support to startups, and to assist existing small businesses with growth opportunities.”

According to Lambert, Kentucky has 350,000 small businesses employing almost three quarters of a million people.

“Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high in the state, and we recognize the need to develop innovative programs and offer dynamic services to help these growing companies every step of the way,” she said.

The Office of Entrepreneurship is a central point of contact for a small-business owner who wants to find out about advocacy and resource referrals, funding opportunities, marketing and sales assistance, and incentive programs that encourage investment and job growth. The services throughout the office are provided free of charge.

“Not only are we seeing more and more startup companies getting off the ground and small businesses growing, we’re also helping more young people gain exposure to the possibilities of becoming an entrepreneur,” Lambert said. “We feel this is an important part of future economic development and will pay dividends over the long term.”

Idea State U is a competition for college students who create business plans and compete for a share of $100,000 in prizes.

“Many entrepreneurs have great ideas, but don’t know what to do next,” Lambert said. “That’s where the Kentucky Innovation Network [KIN] comes in.” The Cabinet for Economic Development started the KIN program in 2001; now it falls under the auspices of the Office of Entrepreneurship. There are 13 KIN offices across the commonwealth, funded half by the state and half by strategic partners at each location. Warren Nash is director of the Lexington office.

“For Lexington, it’s funded by the University of Kentucky,” he said. Nash, whose operates out of the Commerce Lexington building, is actually an employee of UK, specifically the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship through the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

“One of the things really growing in Lexington is the independent gaming development community,” Nash said. Games for Xbox and smart devices are coming from a handful of such companies in the Bluegrass, and they’re using artists and music composers in addition to programmers.

Four months after the Office of Entrepreneurship was created last summer, the Cabinet for Economic Development established the Kentucky Angel Investors Network, coordinating the effort with the existing Kentucky Innovation Network. “Angel investors, individuals who provide capital for business startups, put an average of $20 billion into new companies each year,” Lambert said. “Kentucky Angels brings new ventures and accredited investors together via monthly online meetings, providing investors access to early-stage deal flow on a statewide basis.”

There are other opportunities for funding, such as the Kentucky Small Business Credit Initiative. Created by Gov. Steve Beshear in 2011, KSBCI has generated $30 million in private-sector lending and has created or kept almost 500 jobs. Most small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees that create a position and hire someone for it, and invest at least $5,000 in qualifying technology or equipment, are eligible for the Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit program, implemented in 2009.

Entrepreneurs interested in doing business overseas should be interested in the Office of Entrepreneurship, as the office oversees the Kentucky Export Initiative. In May, Beshear and almost a dozen small-business owners went on a trade mission to the United Kingdom. “The feedback from the participants has been extremely positive,” Lambert said, “as the trade mission opened up a brand new market for their products.”

In 2013 Kentucky businesses shipped more than $25 billion in products to nearly 200 countries.

“So far this year, Kentucky’s exports are up almost 10 percent from this time last year,” Lambert said. “The U.S. average is up less than two percent.”

As the Office of Entrepreneurship enters its second year, Lambert is pleased with the early success and foresees the office’s programs getting stronger.

“We’re always looking for new ways to support entrepreneurs and small businesses,” she said. “We’re still shaping the vision of the Office of Entrepreneurship to provide the best possible service to all of Kentucky’s visionaries and growing companies.”

For more information about the Office of Entrepreneurship, visit www.ThinkKentucky.com.

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