Centrepolis’ Experts Have Failed, So Others Don’t Have to
For every startup entrepreneur who wants to appear on the TV show “Shark Tank,” there are many more behind the scenes you don’t see or hear about.
“The people that you don’t see on ‘Shark Tank’ are the people that don’t do their homework, they don’t do the research, and they don’t understand how to identify the market needs, pains, problems and roadblocks,” says Dennis Shaver, an expert-in-residence at Lawrence Tech University’s business incubator Centrepolis and a successful entrepreneur and best-selling author. “They just come and say: ‘I have a great idea. It’s a billion-dollar opportunity, imagine if I could just get 10 percent of the market,’ Then they go and they borrow money on their house and they try to create a product and it just sits there and it doesn’t sell. Then they wonder why.”
Think of Centrepolis, as a one-stop shop where an entrepreneur can complete market research, create a prototype, and conduct business risk assessment while charting a course that positions it for scalable growth. Centrepolis is the only Hardtech Accelerator in the country that offers in-house product design, engineering, prototyping, manufacturing readiness, and low-volume production.
From interest-free microloans to technical assistance such as business development and marketing, Centrepolis’ staff of more than 30 experts-in-residence offer experience from their own business failures and successes that can benefit entrepreneurs in nearly any industry.
“When I was a CEO, I was like the Lone Ranger. A lot of innovators are that way,” says Shaver. “To be able to have materials support, alliances with vendors, sources for equipment design and prototyping at Centrepolis–it’s sort of like having an advisory board of 35 experts with at least 25 years of experience.”
With grant funding from NEI and other supporters, Centrepolis’ Accelerator Micro Makers Evolution Lab serves underserved small businesses that are making products or manufactured goods and operating in LTU’s home city of Southfield and throughout Wayne County.
“If it wouldn’t have been for the NEI program we wouldn’t be able to have the support to attract the innovators here, but most importantly offer up resources to help them navigate moving forward,” says Shaver.
Currently Centrepolis works with about 38 Wayne County companies, many operated by women, immigrants, or people of color–groups that have historically faced greater barriers to capital, resources, and markets.
“We help small businesses first identify the target market opportunities, where the pain points and the opportunities are,” says Shaver. “We help them vet, validate, and then navigate effectively and take only the steps that you need to take to make sure you’ve got market traction. It’s all about a scalable, repeatable business model. When you have that, that’s where the magic’s at.”