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Join us for a one-day workshop for Illinois rural communities interested developing the local economy through entrepreneurship.

About this Event

Illinois Main Street, with the generous sponsorship of the USDA, is pleased to present a statewide workshop for rural communities interested creating a community-wide plan for growing entrepreneurship downtown.

Why Entrepreneurship Now?

We used to think that to grow businesses downtown, we needed to focus our strategy and resources on attracting businesses. In prioritizing those efforts to bring existing businesses from the outside, we miss a key opportunity to develop entrepreneurs from within our own communities. Main Street America research shows: most business starts located in downtowns come from entrepreneurs within the community, not from external recruitment. Due to low interest rates and high rates of unemployment, COVID-19 has accelerated the trend of new business starts.

Is your downtown ready to help new businesses thrive in your community? Understanding the needs of entrepreneurs and aligning resources to create a supportive environment is the core of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem development.


About the Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Workshop

This day-long workshop is for downtown revitalization teams to explore how to create an environment that fosters and sustains entrepreneurship. By assessing the factors that create opportunities for entrepreneurs and creating a community-wide action plan, your community can become a hub for new microbusinesses. Through this program, you will take away:

  • An understanding of the role entrepreneurship can plan in revitalizing the local economy in the wake of COVID-19.
  • An assessment of your downtown’s assets and needs for growing entrepreneurship.
  • A roadmap for taking action to improve your community’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.

Who should participate?

To prepare for the workshop, community leaders – whether local elected officials, downtown revitalization directors, or economic development entities – are encouraged to invite a downtown entrepreneurship team. Across your community, many entities may be involved in economic development and entrepreneurship. For your downtown, who are the key partners who may work collaboratively in the local sphere to support entrepreneurship efforts? This may be city officials, planners, small business owners invested in the development of the community.

This workshop is ideally attended by a team of up to six (6) representatives from your community. There will be opportunities to network with other communities, but the primary activities will focus on working with your downtown entrepreneurship team.

Note: If you're unable to attend with a team, we welcome your participation as an individual registrant and will pair you with other individuals for slightly modified breakout discussions.

How will this take place?

Materials and registration for the workshop will be housed in Eventbrite. After registration, participants will be able to access the online Event Page with additional resources and a link to the Zoom program. The one-day workshop will occur via Zoom, with breakout rooms to work with your downtown entrepreneurship team.


Thursday, May 6, 2021 | 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. CT

Subject to minor change in advance of the program

9:30 a.m. – Program Introduction and Overview

10:00 a.m. – Context setting: Entrepreneurship in the wake of COVID-19: overview of trends and impacts

10:45 a.m. – Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: examples in action

11:30 a.m. – Break Out Exercise: assessing your ecosystem

12:15 p.m. – Break

12:45 p.m. – Minding the gap: action steps for change

1:30 p.m. – Growing the team through local stakeholders

2:00 p.m. – Break Out Exercise: project identification

2:30 p.m. – Resource Development and Implementation

3:15 p.m. – Conclusion

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