Innovation does exist

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By Joey Gomez

If we don’t support small businesses or aspiring entrepreneurs in the Valley, who will?
It’s a question posed by Mission economic development leaders last summer as they considered how to take a leading role to begin removing obstacles for businesses and make capital more accessible for startup growth.

Experts at Mission Economic Development Corporation have long acknowledged that the biggest obstacle for emerging companies is funding. Entrepreneurs in the Valley have fallen behind others throughout the state and country who have had ready-access to startup accelerators, angel networks, and/or venture capital funds to grow their businesses.
Now, Mission says it has developed Ruby Red Ventures in the spirit of the region’s founders, whom the city credits as the first true entrepreneurs in the Valley.
“As economic development professionals and beneficiaries of their hard work, we at Mission EDC feel obligated to continue to foster that spirit,” said EDC CEO Alex Meade about the region’s founders. “Considering how difficult it is to borrow money today, we need to begin removing some barriers and making capital more accessible to fuel startup growth. If we don’t support our small businesses or aspiring entrepreneurs, who will?”

The Mission EDC and the Mission City Council unanimously approved the creation of Ruby Red Ventures in July. Ruby Red is a $100,000 small business fund that aims to nurture entrepreneurial spirit and promote the creation of innovative businesses in the city.
In particular, it seeks to encourage entrepreneurially oriented Rio Grande Valley residents to expand and/or launch new ventures. The goal is to allow participants to gain a better understanding of how to develop and follow a realistic business plan, as well as provide the participants with forums in which they develop skills in presenting their ventures.
“The state has done an excellent job with the Texas Emerging Technology Fund; however, it can’t fund all projects. The EDC believes that in order to make the state more competitive, communities now need to create their own tools,” Meade said.

Mission EDC had over 18 applicants on October 8, which was the deadline to apply. Initial workshops began later that month, and in November, they will start meeting with the instructors on a regular basis to complete the rest of their business plan. Those business plans will be reviewed by Ruby Red committee members before applicants make their presentations. The committee will then calculate the scores and eventually decide on the finalists for the awards by spring of 2013.

The program will consist of two rounds of funding per year at $50,000 per round and a maximum of $25,000 per company. Participants will be required to attend small business workshops to help them prepare sound business plans. The application period began in September. The first round of funding will begin in March 2013.
“We are trying to remove that obstacle and give them tools,” Meade said. “We will teach them to write a business plan while giving them the opportunity to compete for some dollars. We want to foster the many business ideas that exist in the Valley by making these funds available to help aspiring entrepreneurs bring them to fruition.”