How to Get Started in Ento-preneurship
By Dawn Musil
Editor’s Note: This post is the first in a two-part series about entomological entrepreneurship. Stay tuned for the next installment in the coming weeks.
If you are an entomologist or bug lover with a business idea inspired by the insects you study or observe, here are a few places to get started in finding the network, support, and funding to begin your entrepreneurial journey.
Build a Community Around Your Vision
Coming up with an idea or exploring market needs by yourself can be fun, but you have the opportunity to learn significantly more from brainstorming and working with a team. Even working with one other person can make a significant difference. Any late nights spent working on pitch decks, websites, or research will be better spent with the community you build around your vision.
To start off, toss the idea(s) around with some friends or colleagues who have similar interests and, ideally, complementary skill sets to yours. For example, If you are detail-oriented, find someone who loves big-picture thinking and will help expand your vision. Starting a company or building an idea isn’t easy, and having someone on your team to help support, encourage, and even poke holes in your assumptions will make your idea far more effective and the experience more fun. Harvard Business Review’s article, “How to Pick a Co-Founder” can help guide you in selecting the right partner.
Mentorship is another critical aspect of entrepreneurship. Whether it is your research advisor or someone who has built a business in this space, find a mentor to help guide you and support you when you face challenging questions.
If you are a student or university researcher looking to commercialize your research, you may have access to a technology transfer office at your university. Share your vision with the experts there, and they can help navigate legal processes and often find opportunities for funding and connect you with business mentors in your community.
Navigate All the Red Tape
The idea of starting a business can be intimidating due to legal structures, paperwork, and financial requirements. But the beauty of the information age is that resources to help tackle these problems are at your fingertips. As just a couple examples, see “The Basics of Starting a Business,” in The New York Times for help on the basics of a business plan, and the U.S. Small Business Administration includes access to business counseling, legal structures, information around market research, and more.
And, if you are interested in pursuing pitch competitions, accelerators, and other similar opportunities, they often provide deadlines and guidelines for getting many of these “red tape” components completed.
Find Opportunities to Kick Off or Scale Your Idea
Accelerators, incubators, and pitch competitions (oh my!) are becoming more abundant and niche. These are opportunities for finding mentorship, connecting with a community of entrepreneurs in the same space, meeting your customers, and gaining media attention. For these reasons, they can be incredibly competitive; however, smaller, local competitions can offer you more through your community. For example, when my partners and I took our new business Hivelend to the F3 Agtech Accelerator and the Shore Hatchery Pitch Competition, both opportunities offered us warm introductions to farmers and beekeepers across Maryland, as well as mentors in the agricultural technology field that helped immensely in early stages of building traction. A few more of these opportunities include:
- Accelerators: TechStars Farm to Fork, Tech Stars Sustainability, and AgLaunch 365, offering funding.
- Pitch Competitions: AFBF AgInnovation Challenge, Global Agripreneurs Summit, and Corteva’s Radicle Challenge, with grant funding starting at $10,000.
- Grant opportunities for entrepreneurship: Echoing Green Grant and U.S. Government’s Grant for Small Businesses can provide access to more than $80,000 in grants and mentorship alongside a valuable network.
While these are preliminary starting points, entrepreneurship is a process that you should approach with an eagerness to continuously learn something new, because every day will be spent growing and evolving!
Dawn Musil is a Venture for America Fellow alumnus, Resolution Project Social Entrepreneurship Team Guide, and a co-founder of Hivelend, an online platform to connect beekeepers and farmers for pollination. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland. Twitter: @DawnMusil1. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.