A Joint Service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Peoria Groups Want to Help Start-ups Get Started

Peoria Public Radio/Kristin McHugh

What will Peoria’s economy look like after the pandemic?

A wide variety of area organizations and institutions believe the future lies with entrepreneurs, start-ups and maintaining small businesses and, given the impact of the coronavirus on the national economy, there's no time to lose.

That’s the reason for a virtual town meeting set for 5 p.m. Thursday.

The discussion will focus on issues and challenges entrepreneurs face in the current economic climate, said Jake Hamann, executive director of the Peoria Innovation Alliance, the group facilitating the meeting.

Hamann said meetings among area groups have been taking place in central Illinois during the pandemic to try to streamline the process for those seeking to go into business for themselves. “Ideally, we’d like to set up a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs,” he said.

Since money presents the biggest challenge for those trying to break into the market, there’s also a need to provide financial help for start-ups in this area, said Hamann, who is proposing a “Return to Better Innovation Fund” to allocate grants directly for local efforts.

The fund would be built through tax-deductible donations from philanthropic groups and individuals, modeled after such efforts as the Fountain Innovation Fund in Kansas City, he said.

Fifty percent of the grants would be allocated to minority, women or veteran-owned businesses, said Hamann.

Katie Kelly, a former management analyst with the Peoria Police Department who now runs Lifting Up, LLC in Peoria, is one of the panelists who will be participating in the town meeting.

She presently helps organize the Workforce Equity Initiative at Illinois Central College that assists low-income students “on a journey of self-sufficiency,” said Kelly.

“I was contracted to provide a platform that helps coordinate students with area organizations like Dream Center, Goodwill and METEC,” she said.

“Covid-19 has made the rest of society aware of problems my company tries to solve,” said Kelly, referring to the need for coordinating services for the public.

While central Illinois has a lot of big-city problems, there also are benefits here, she said.

“Problems are of a manageable size. Peoria is blessed with a lot of resources,” said Kelly.

One of those resources, the Small Business Center at Bradley University, has lately been “swamped with calls,” said Eric Sampson, the organization’s director.

“We used to hold classes in person on starting a business in Illinois, but we’ve now moved it online,” he said.

Thursday's two-hour webinar has drawn plenty of attention, said Sampson, noting that 30 people took part in a recent session.

“People are saying that, ‘I have an idea’ and they’re going after it. They’re doing it in Peoria, Pekin, Morton, Farmington, across the area. That’s very encouraging to me,” he said.

Sampson said it was important that different organizations work together on behalf of the public. “We’re all here top be supportive. If any one of us doesn’t have the right answer, someone else will,” he said.

Organizations involved in the town meeting (http://bit.ly/ANBP-Peoria) include: Distillery Labs, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Startup GP, Big Table Greater Peoria, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Illinois SBDC at Bradley University, ArtsPartners, Mio Creativo, Tri County Regional Planning Commission, Morton Economic Development Council, Minority Business Development Center, Greater Peoria Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, University of Illinois Extension.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WCBU will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WCBU can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.