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NIC to pilot new Venture Fund Microgrant program

| July 29, 2021 1:00 AM

North Idaho College, with support from the city of Coeur d’Alene, is preparing to launch the NIC Venture Fund Microgrant program, a pilot project offering a new financial resource to help regional entrepreneurs launch and expand business ventures. NIC Venture Fund microgrants will be available to approved applicants beginning July 22nd, 2021.

The microgrant program is an extension of the work North Idaho College has done for the last four years, supporting and investing in programming geared to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs through a variety of resources available through the NIC Venture Network. Those services include technical assistance and product development support through the NIC Venture Center; college credit certificate programs through the NIC Avista Center for Entrepreneurship; small business coaching and education in partnership with the Small Business Administration at the Idaho Small Business Development Center; and makerspace and hands-on education through Gizmo-CDA.

“Entrepreneurs often benefit from the education and services of Venture Network programming, only to be stunted by capital-access limitations that inhibit their potential for success,” said Ryan Arnold, NIC Director of Regional Entrepreneurial Strategy. “Usually, they don’t need a large amount of capital that would require traditional lending options. Instead, it’s smaller micro-funds that are needed to purchase inventory, equipment, or gain legal assistance in their business pursuit.”

The Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City-based thinktank that supports entrepreneur-focused economic development, estimates that 83% of entrepreneurs do not access bank loans or venture capital in their entrepreneurship journey, instead relying on family savings, personal credit cards, or other riskier financial vehicles to fund their business ideas. The foundation also reports that 26% of startups cite a lack of access to credit availability, while gender and race add additional barriers to capital access and utilization.

The Venture Fund Micromanagement program will help fill this critical gap in the Coeur d’Alene area.

Of the roughly 1,000 students and community members the North Idaho College Venture Network programs serve each year, NIC estimates 200 will face barriers to the success of their business in the next 12 months. Those obstacles can likely be overcome with a small infusion of cash.

The success of these local entrepreneurs and businesses will also benefit the community in the form of new jobs, services, and business income that is invested back into the local economy.

“Supporting entrepreneurship can also be responsible for long-term economic expansion and a subsequent growth in the tax base,” Arnold said.

To be eligible for a Venture Fund microgrant, applicants must have experience working with at least one of the North Idaho College Venture Network programs: NIC Venture Center, NIC Avista Center for Entrepreneurship, North Idaho Small Business Development Center, or GIZMO-CDA.

Residents of Coeur d’Alene are strongly encouraged to apply. Participants will identify tangible financial barriers to their business’s success (such as capital, inventory, technical assistance, childcare to allow time to work on the business, etc.).

Qualifying participants will receive one or more microgrant awards in amounts not to exceed a total of $5,000 per recipient for non-labor business costs.

For more information about the NIC Venture Fund Microgrant program and the other NIC Venture Network programs, please visit nic.edu/venture or contact Sam Koester, Senior Administrative Assistant – Entrepreneurship at sam.koester@nic.edu or 208-929-4038.