In an effort to maintain what he calls the excitement and momentum of the Small Business Revolution and #MyAlton campaigns, Chris Miller, a professor of entrepreneurship, has launched a new initiative called Alton RISING.
“The Riverbend Investment in Startups and Innovation for New Growth, or Alton RISING, is designed to create a community of entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and innovative nonprofits who come together on a regular basis for training and support,” says Chris Miller, a Democratic candidate for Madison County treasurer. “Recognizing that startups – companies less than five years of age – account for nearly all net new job creation, I’ve spent my career focused on creating the conditions under which entrepreneurs are most likely to succeed.”
Miller, who in addition to leading local economic and community development efforts, serves as assistant teaching professor and director of interdisciplinary entrepreneurship at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, is referencing research done by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. According to Kauffman and other research institutions, companies less than one year old have created an average of 1.5 million jobs per year over the past three decades whereas older and larger firms shed more jobs than they created.
“Supporting new and existing small businesses in the Downtown Alton area has always been a central part of the mission of Alton Main Street,” says Sara McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street and key force behind the Small Business Revolution and #MyAlton campaigns. “Chris Miller and his team have been huge supporters already over the past couple of years in providing their unique expertise to entrepreneurs of all types and we’re excited to continue to partner with him on a more consistent basis through his new Alton RISING initiative.”
As a precursor to Alton RISING, Miller and his team led a six-week bootcamp earlier this year for commercial entrepreneurs and small-business owners that had as many as 50 participants from March to April.
“Even though I’ve been in business for nearly a decade now, the free training and networking Chris Miller and Alton Main Street provided helped me connect to new customers and rethink how we’re going to continue to grow,” said Sheila Curry, owner of Granny’s Uniforms in Alton.
As a follow up to the bootcamp, Miller and Alton Main Street will be hosting a “Pitch Competition and Networking Event” on July 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Simmons Hanly Conroy. In August, Miller’s Alton RISING initiative will hold another Pitch Competition focused on the region’s innovative nonprofits as a lead up to a second boot camp he intends to launch in September that will focus on training nonprofit professionals and other “social” entrepreneurs on how to diversify their revenue streams through the sale of products or services.
“Think Girl Scout Cookies or Goodwill Resale Shops,” says Miller. “Nonprofits are small businesses just like any other and are huge contributors to the local economy and job market. A robust economy in Madison County requires not only new startups and thriving small businesses, but also active and engaged social and public sectors collaborating across traditional silos and it’s my intention for Alton RISING to be a precursor to similar efforts in communities all across Madison County.”