In previous blogs, I’ve mentioned how gratifying it is to own and operate a small business. Not only do you get the freedom to create your own company, but you also get to forge lasting partnerships, build a loyal customer base and create jobs in your community. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I look back at that time as one of the most productive and creative periods of my professional life.

In starting a business in the 1990s, there was no Internet yet and certainly no singular resource where I could learn the basics of entrepreneurship. Oh, the mistakes I made.  That’s one of the main reasons the Entrepreneur Academy came to be. To offer everyone in Washington the same education and skills mastery anyone can use to start a new business.

In developing the Academy, we looked for experts who provide additional value to the workbooks and assignments we were creating, and we were fortunate to get some terrific people to share their expertise, even with a pandemic raging on all around us. And while the Academy is free, rest assured that it will provide you with an excellent return on your investment of time and energy. Perhaps more important, it will keep you from making costly mistakes.

So what will you learn in Commerce’s Entrepreneur Academy?

Before we get too far, know that you don’t have to go through all 11 lessons. You can start and stop anywhere you like. That said, you’re encouraged to complete a lesson once you start one, since the workbooks, assignments and quizzes are designed to work together to help you master the skills necessary to start and operate a successful business.

If you’re a seasoned business owner who needs to rebuild or restart, we’re working on a companion to this called the Restart Academy and hope to have it completed in the summer.

Lesson 1: Ideation
If you haven’t solidified your “big idea” for your business, this is an excellent place to start. Our instructor, Guy Nelson, is a whiz at teaching others to be creative thinkers. This lesson helps you examine your potential and refine your idea using proven techniques.

Lesson 2: Starting a Responsible Business
Increasingly, customers want to support businesses that match their values and demonstrate good corporate citizenship. Sean Moore walks you through the concept of a social purpose corporation and how it can make money and support a cause at the same time.

Lesson 3: The Business Model Canvas
No need to slog through a traditional business plan. In this lesson, Lindsay Andreotti will show you the power of the Business Model Canvas, a quick way to plan your business and even test several ideas simultaneously.

Lesson 4: Access to Capital
Meagan Hulsey shows you some innovative ideas for getting your business off the ground without putting your personal assets on the line. Finding money to start a business isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Lesson 5: Business Structure
Your business’ structure not only determines how your business will operate but also how you are taxed and what you’re legally responsible for. Madhu K. Singh walks you through all the various options, including the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Lesson 6: Choosing the Right the Location
These days, a business can be on main street, housed in a co-working space, located in a bedroom or be entirely online. Denise Dumouchel and Alanna Imbach take you through all the options along with the good, the bad and the downright ugly of each.

Lesson 7: Marketing
Building awareness of your business is essential; if you want to draw in customers and make sales, that is. Marketing expert Jennifer Korfiatis shows you how to stretch precious dollars to make the greatest impact in social media, advertising, marketing and promotions.

Lesson 8: Intellectual Property
Aziz Makhani is on hand to show you how to protect your ideas from theft or reverse engineering and how to make sure you’re not infringing on the intellectual property of another company. Plus, you’ll learn the basics of copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets.

Lesson 9: Crisis Management
A disaster isn’t a matter of if, but when, and being prepared for one will protect your business and livelihood. Kiana Kabanje takes you through simple steps you can take to ensure that your business will survive just about anything that comes your way.

Lesson 10: Supply Chain Management

Every business, large and small, has a supply chain in one form or another that needs to be maximized for efficiency and reliability. Tommy Gantz shows you how to build a supply chain that supports your current and future business needs.

Lesson 11: Avoiding Common Mistakes

As a serial entrepreneur, Leigh Felton has seen it all. She will go over some of the life lessons she’s learned along the way, including how to deal with setbacks and understanding that failure is just part of the process of creating something amazing.

If you’ve ever wanted to start a business, there’s never been a better time. The pandemic has realigned the marketplace. The Entrepreneur Academy will give you the confidence, tools and strategies for making your business a success. All that’s missing is the cap and gown (which can be purchased in the lobby on your way out).

Somewhere north of the Emerald City, cleaning Academy erasers and picking gum off the virtual desks,

  • Robb