Sheltowee Business Network Blog

Why Start the Sheltowee Business Network?

Why Start the Sheltowee Business Network?

Jul 05 2019

By Alex Day


Can you name one organization that is solely devoted to the needs of entrepreneurs?  I have had a hard time identifying one group that has a national presence that is solely devoted to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.  There are some great groups out there, like Tech Stars.  But even Tech Stars is more devoted to "tech" startups than entrepreneurs in general.  I was encouraged by people to start the Sheltowee Business Network (SBN) because there is a need to help entrepreneurs.  SBN is based on a paid membership model that offers the levels of Mentors, Experts, Angels, Entrepreneurs, and Explorers.  As an Expert member you may be a subject matter expert, but not an entrepreneur.  All contributions to our startup community are welcome.  


The goal of the Sheltowee Business Network is to help grow and start entrepreneurial businesses.  You may ask, "shouldn’t that be 'start' and 'grow' rather than 'grow' and 'start'?"  I think it is important to point out that we are targeting successful entrepreneurs who have started and grown businesses as well as new entrepreneurs.  So it is important that these experienced entrepreneurs be able to grow their businesses, so we can help others start their business.   


Historically here in Louisville, KY most of the organizations that are around to help entrepreneurs are run by people who have never started a business in their life.  They have never walked in the footsteps of an entrepreneur, yet are front and center when it comes to providing advice and guidance.  I find this to be a problem.  Here’s what SBN intends to do: 


1.       Establish and promote our core values.  We believe that culture is important.  One of the key components of building a vibrant culture, are the core values upon which the culture is built.  We want everyone in our network to understand our core values and to live up to them.  Those core values are: 

a.       Help others 

b.       Always act in a kind, ethical and transparent fashion 

c.       Honor those who assume the risk  

d.       Expect a financial return on your interactions in the network 


Take note that our number one core value is to help others.  Our fourth core value is to expect your interactions within the network to provide a financial return.  We encourage people to remember that making money is NOT our first value, but that it is important to acknowledge the importance of making money as entrepreneurs.  There are many that say, give and expect nothing in return.  I like that concept, and it makes a good soundbite, but if you are spending your time as an entrepreneur giving and not getting anything in return, you are not going to be in business for long  If you want to be an entrepreneur, learn early the rules of the entrepreneurial game are driven by capitalism, and that those rules dictate that you get something in return for what you give.   


2.      Develop a financially sustainable platform to help entrepreneurs.  Inside SBN, we define an entrepreneur as a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.  I have watched at least 4 different efforts over the years spend millions of dollars and fail here in Louisville.  All of these efforts had either philanthropic and/or government money behind them.  They did not focus on developing a financially sustainable business model.  "Financially sustainable" means that you must provide something of value, and someone must be willing to pay for that item.  All of the efforts of the past have applied socialism to attempt to ignite a capitalistic entrepreneurial engine.  IT DOES NOT WORK.  Governments change and philanthropists can be fickle.  The model to help entrepreneurs has to be based on capitalism, not socialism.  The Sheltowee Business Network's goal is to develop a financially sustainable model and to develop its own $20M venture fund to support its entrepreneurs.  We are still determining how this will work, but we are confident that we have some ideas that are  sustainable, and novel in the area of training and e-learning..  This ties to our fourth core value of expecting a financial return on your interactions.  


3.       Develop a model that provides meaningful information, tools, events and interactions.  Business is all about the relationships.  We believe that the most meaningful way to build relationships is through face to face interactions.  We do not believe that the Sheltowee Business Network can exist as merely a digital platform.  We believe that the network must exist locally in each community where we have a presence.  That is why we are seeking Node Leaders for each community in which we have a presence.  The Sheltowee Business Network's job is to make sure that we are providing tools, processes and procedures that help each Node Leader effectively build their node.  This includes event formats, a meaningful curriculum, IT tools, and apps that will help grow our nodes.  This ties back to our first core value of helping others and to our third core value of honoring the entrepreneur.   


4.       Be collaborative.  This is incredibly important.  We need to find ways to work with others who have similar goals and objectives; this is why there are different types of membership.  As opposed to viewing them as "competitors" we need to find ways to approach them as collaborators.  We don't have all the solutions for entrepreneurs, and we need to collaborate with those who have different perspectives in the ecosystem.  I am very pleased to be collaborating with LEAP and Tech Stars on several different efforts.  For all the problems with have had in the past, I am very hopeful that under the leadership of Patrick Henshaw LEAP can bring sustainable value to Louisville.  


5.       Admit when we make mistakes and learn from them.  I believe that it is important to admit when you make a mistake in business.  It is also very important to learn from that mistake.  This ties to our second core value of SBN:  acting with integrity and transparency.   


As a network, we have set ambitious goals for ourselves.  You can see our key Sheltowee Team members  listed on our website.  There are more than 20 founding members that have taken a stand for this new network in our region, beginning in Louisville. We want to help start 10,000 businesses in five years and recruit 20,000 mentors.  We are diligently working on the tools and systems we believe we will need to have to make this successful. For growth and solid collaboration, we seek to grow our membership daily.  We invite you to see how you can join on our website, as well as offer you the option to see the upcoming events, which are also published in Eventbrite.  Some events are for members only and others are open to the public.    We need people of high integrity, with talent, and who are driven to accomplish great things.  I am proud to have established a solid foundation with the Founding Members we have brought in since December 2018, and we hope that you will join us in building an organization that has a major impact on the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.