As the Monday, August 22nd application deadline for the Brave Launch business accelerator draws closer, this one-of-a-kind intensive learning environment could be the moment in time that you’ll look back at as being the catalyst to reaching your entrepreneurial dreams.

PEN got the answers to the questions you need to know before submitting your business into the program. Chad Stamper and Ross Miller from the Illinois Small Business Development Center and Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University will be the instructors of Brave Launch. Here’s what they had to say about the upcoming program.

If you don’t have to be a Bradley University student to apply, why are they involved in this effort?
Bradley University and the Illinois Small Business Development Center are involved because both are part of this community and want to see the economy thrive. Well developed, financially successful companies in the area create jobs and build the local economy.

A strong local economy is important because then more local companies are able to hire graduates of Bradley University and can keep them in the area. Keeping young professionals in the area longer can help to develop the local economy even more.

What kind of startups are you looking for?
Any type of startup can benefit from this program as long as they are willing and able to modify (or pivot) their idea to satisfy what the market is providing in the interviews.

This is not limited to startup companies, but existing companies that are developing new products or services can benefit from this program as well.

What are your credentials to evaluate, teach and help my company grow?
Ross: Currently, I am the Director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University. I have been with the SBDC for 15 years now. During that time I have been involved in over 280 start-ups and about 30 business acquisitions.

My involvement has been advising the entrepreneurs in the process and helping them around the “obstacles” that hinder small businesses. Even with all that experience, the process that we are teaching with Brave Launch is a way to focus on the important aspects of developing any product or service that is more accepted by the market. This process of developing an understanding of what the market wants and how best to deliver it to them is what will make companies more successful. To be able to teach this method, I completed a certification course with VentureWell to be a Lean Lauchpad Educator.

Chad: Over the past 17 years, I have been a co-founder of five startup companies. Currently, I am the Director of Technology Commercialization for the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University.

I sit on the Coordinating Council of the Illinois Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth Association, and is a certified Business Development Advisor in Illinois. I am also certified as Lean Launchpad Business accelerator Educator.

Additionally, I am a past board member of the NewVentures Initiative, a business incubator in Eastern Iowa, and was a co-founder of the Quad Cities Entrepreneur and Inventors Club. I established a public-private seed fund in Eastern Iowa and managed the Quad Cities CDC investment fund.

How strong are the your connections to the mentors, advisors and investors involved?
Our team has hand-picked the mentors and advisers that will be involved in this program. We will be doing specific training for the mentors to help them understand the material and build upon what is taught in the materials, videos and class setting. Chad personally asked the investors to be a part of the final pitch day. Our connections have been strong and we believe that will make for a better result for the teams that will be involved.

How much team time do we get with mentors?
Each team has at least one hour with a mentor per week. Mentors are not assigned and have the option to meet with any team that asks them. We require that the mentors have at least one hour of meeting time available per week, but they have the option to meet with more.

What is covered in the curriculum during Brave Launch?
Specific instruction on how to develop the business model canvas, develop the investor pitchdeck, and how to perform customer discovery.

What other resources are available to me?
We will provide The Startup Owner’s Manual and Business Model Generation books to each of the teams. In addition, there are plenty of videos and materials to better understand every aspect of the process. There are also advisers that are topic experts available for teams of ask questions.

How does the team model work better than if done as an individual?
The team is needed because of the amount of meetings that are required. Over the course of 7 weeks, the team will meet with 100+ potential customers and channel partners. That would be nearly impossible for an individual to be able to complete and get quality feedback and apply the knowledge.

What will help me get accepted to Brave Launch?
If you have a team that is willing to put in the work and be willing to pivot the business model. The best teams are not “locked into” their idea and are willing to accept what they hear from the market and adapt the idea to the feedback they are hearing.

What can you say will be something I will definitely get out of this experience?
The teams will have an understanding of the innovation development process. They will have a better method to evaluate and adapt a new product or service to the “wants and needs” of the market.


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This article was created in collaboration with Bradley University Turner Center for Entrepreneurship.

Featured image from right to left, Chad Stamper and Ross Miller.