I think we can all agree there is nothing better when placing a phone call than reaching someone who actually understands what you need, on the very first ring, without having to wade through a series of voicemail menus.  Likewise the same can be said about starting a business and trying to use the internet.  In today’s information dense world where nearly anything you could think of is ‘googleable’ and available online, the one-on-one interaction of professionals helping entrepreneurs is still the critical factor.

Well, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan are doing something about that.

The New York City-based Blackstone Group committed $50 million over five years to foster entrepreneurship and economic recovery in communities hardest hit by the global economic crisis. Its first major grant, for $2 million, establishes “Blackstone LaunchPad,” a program it hopes will become a national model for fostering entrepreneurship through higher education.  Walsh College & Wayne State University are the benefactors of this grant in Michigan and opened the doors to each school’s Blackstone LaunchPads this fall.

Blackstone LaunchPad serves both beginning and experienced entrepreneurs, assisting with opportunity recognition, feasibility assessment, and strategy for starting and growing companies or non-profits. At Walsh, students and alumni are eligible to tap into all of the consulting and resources available–providing the practical skills, seasoned advice, and professional contacts that make the difference when starting up a new company with just-in-time delivery of resources.  Once an entrepreneur has submitted a profile online, the process starts with an in-depth, one-on-one interview to identify what the entrepreneur needs to do next to advance their business idea to the next level.

Throughout the process, the in-person consulting and follow-up plays a pivotal role in supporting the entrepreneur. The ability to talk with Carol Glynn, Blackstone LaunchPad director, is just a phone call or email away. “Before LaunchPad,” said one student in the program, “all I had was books and websites. Now I have access to people.”

The response has been very strong at both schools. In less than 10 weeks, at Walsh College we have had 65 participants, of which 21 are in full consulting mode with new business ideas. Local companies or business leaders can also get involved as venture coaches or business resources.

While fostering business growth is an important outcome, equally critical is changing the landscape of higher education and transitioning from the day when a student’s only option was to find a job to now also understanding how to “make a job.”  This fits in quite well with the New Economy’s focus on creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Michigan that is rooted in supporting what is businesses need to grow.

About The Walsh Institute

Launched in 2010 by Walsh College, the Walsh Institute accelerates business growth in Michigan through education, collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  Walsh Institute is for aspiring entrepreneurs to executives of third-stage companies.  Services include skill building training, actionable research, networks, affinity groups, Business 360 and Blackstone LaunchPad.  Sponsors are Derderian, Kann, Seyferth & Salucci PC, Troy; Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith PC, Phimation; Hennessey Capital; FSBI: AdviCoach & The Entrepreneur’s Source; and Mastermind Solutions.