The New Bedford entrepreneurial ecosystem began to take shape about six years ago. We were simply doing our best to recruit a co-working or maker-space operator for vacant space in a city-owned building—that’s it.
Since then, we have added program partners such as Groundwork, EforAll, the Co-Creative Center, the NB Creative Consortium, the New Bedford Ocean Cluster, and UMass Dartmouth. With those partners came new investments, facilities, programs, events, and of course, more entrepreneurs. Lots more entrepreneurs. We now have something we have never had before in New Bedford–the beginnings of a community of hundreds of entrepreneurs centered on maritime innovation, arts+culture, and main street businesses. The time had come to get a bit better organized.
So, more than just welcoming you the network, I wanted to give you just a little context as to how we came to SourceLink as the best tool for us to organize our efforts with greater impact and efficiency.
It all started at the Kauffman Foundation Mayors Conference for Entrepreneurship.
To help us better understand the range of our assets and how they interrelate, we formally engaged the University of Missouri KC Innovation Center, which we first discovered at the Kauffman Mayors Conference for Entrepreneurship in Kansas City in the late spring of 2019. I remember the weather was good, the music was great, and the food was even better!
I attended this conference at the urging of Mayor Mitchell. He wanted us to see what others from around the country were doing to help entrepreneurs. It was a great experience, and one of the few times I have been inspired at a conference. At the conference, I committed us to developing a “game plan” for New Bedford entrepreneurship that would begin with a good first step—an inclusive asset mapping exercise. A useful and fun exercise to be sure, but one for which we had not budgeted. Jumping ahead a few months to January, our board gave us the green light, and we were successful in our application to the National League of Cities to help fund this project through their Cities Innovation Ecosystem program. The three-year effort we proposed—to plan for a fully realized ecosystem network—actually goes well beyond what we thought we could commit to at the Kansas City conference. Along with the NBEDC, the Port of New Bedford and UMass Dartmouth contributed the matching funds needed, and we were on our way.
This was a perfect project to start at the beginning of COVID-19.
Our official work with the SourceLink team in Kansas City to build a supportive entrepreneur ecosystem began this spring—right when COVID-19 changed all of our lives. At that time, we had a dual goal at the NBEDC—help businesses survive through the worst of it and help them come out stronger on the other side.
For SourceLink, we knew we wanted to focus our energies around maritime innovation, arts+culture, and main street businesses and had the partners to pull it off. By the middle of this summer, the SourceLink team and our founding partners had completed all of the preliminary planning, conducted our first resource partner workshop, and began to develop the new website you are on now.
We came together every Friday for months to push the project along, while gaining a better understanding of how what we were planning could be a really useful tool to those looking to start or grow a business or idea in New Bedford. We began to see that SourceLink could be the glue that helps bind together a wide-ranging group of entrepreneurs that started organically but could now benefit from a bit of structure. It’s early days for sure with New Bedford SourceLink, but we like how things are shaping up.
Don’t just use the network, be part of it.
At the end of the day, this network is for you, so welcome to your New Bedford SourceLink!
We envision this as a useful tool, but also a trusted place to connect. We wanted to build a place where trusted resources could all be in one place, including the entrepreneurs who will be its primary users. Look for events to attend on our ever-growing calendar, and hopefully, by this time next year, we can have our first in-person event.
We can’t wait to get all of the members of the New Bedford SourceLink network to meet, share a laugh, spit ball ideas, and welcome each other to the city that is thrilled to have them!