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Business Incubator Series: Interview With Ebony Johnson, Entrepreneurial Programs Champion, TechTown — Detroit, Michigan (Part 4)

Posted on Monday, Mar 21st 2011

By guest authors Irina Patterson and Praveen Karoshi

Irina: How is the Bizdom U program is different from what you offer?

Ebony: They are not an incubator. They have a four-month accelerator program. They accept a small number of folks, and you have to have a full-time commitment. You couldn’t have a job. It is 9 to 5, Monday–Friday commitment. It is a different offering than what we do. We don’t have a 9 to 5 intensive, four-month program.

Irina: On average, how long does a company stay in your incubation program?

Ebony: Right now, in theory, is it is a six-month engagement.

Irina: What usually happens after six months?

Ebony: After six months, they can choose if they need to continue with us. They can choose to do that, or we have a lot of other services, such as different workshops and stuff that we can provide. They can take advantage of that. They can get space in the building, and they may just continue building their business and look for other resources.

Basically, after six months, they end their membership time with us. But if they needed to continue on with any of the coaching or educational pieces, they can choose to do that.

And if not, then they just make a decision. Like, I have got enough information. I can continue growing on my own, and they may, we hope. We focus on them building teams or building advisory boards and things of that nature, so that they can continue functioning.

Irina: Do you use any technology in your work? Do you use contractors, consultants? What is in your toolbox?

Ebony: In our toolbox there are a lot of tools like templates for people to understand stuff. For example, if they need to know how to put together a cash flow statement, how to put together a business plan. If they need to know how to build a team or other things that they need to consider like sales and finance.

We have workshops we put on. We do, in some cases, connect them with difference consultants that they need. So, really a lot of it is whether it is templates or people that we connect them with or workshops that we put together for them to help them to understand things better.

Irina: What are your metrics for success? What do you measure?

Ebony: We are measuring, especially in our programming, is how many people we can help to core outcomes. If you think about that quadrant approach that I mentioned, and in each of those quadrants there are some things that we selected.

So, in quadrant one with that first-time, novice entrepreneur who is still in the pre-launch space of development, we want to help them get to feasibility. Is this idea go or no go? Can you actually launch this product or service? That is where we use the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrack program to help entrepreneurs understand and get into the marketplace, do some research, and figure it out if this something they should pursue.

Then, there are various core outcomes that we look at based on the quadrant they are in. So, in quadrant two it is really about having a business plan and executing on the plan; it is having a polished pitch where they can talk about their business to customers and to investors if they need to and generate revenues and seeking funding. There are various outcomes based on those quadrants.

Irina: Can you share some of you success stories?

Ebony: We have people who have come to us with two people that now have over 20 folks that are now doing business internationally. We have companies that are generating millions of dollars in revenue, companies that have gotten funding from significant various sources, a million dollars and more. So, most of it is around their building the business through funding, getting employees, and new revenue generation.

Irina: Do you stay in touch with the companies after their incubation?

Ebony: Yes, we still offer services to the people who have already taken our program. They can always come back to any networking that we have and reach out to us if they need to make a connection, for example.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Business Incubator Series: Interview With Ebony Johnson, Entrepreneurial Programs Champion, TechTown -- Detroit, Michigan
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