By Joshua Schuetz
CEDA’s Rural Business Innovation Lab (RBIL) launched in late spring 2023, and the inaugural cohort is now halfway through the 8-month technical assistance program. RBIL, which is funded in part by a grant from Compeer Financial, is led by CEDA team members Robert Harris III and Cameron Payne.
Since the kickoff event in Red Wing in June, CEDA’s RBIL team has been meeting weekly with the eight companies in the inaugural cohort, working with them on a customized plan to scale their businesses. CEDA has also been building capacity for future cohorts, integrating new learnings and creating programming that caters to the needs of these rural companies. Here are a few highlights of the past few months:
● To support businesses as they embark on marketing campaigns, pitch competitions, and seeking capital, CEDA developed a “storyboarding sprint” curriculum that utilized sprint and agile brainstorming methodologies to organize big ideas into actionable steps forward.
● One of RBIL’s major goals is to create a denser, more well-connected ecosystem of innovative rural businesses. One exciting example of RBIL’s collaborative nature is a new partnership between two RBIL businesses: Perennial Pantry recently featured 3Cricketeers products in their subscription box! These entrepreneurs share a unified vision for environmental change and improved sustainable business practices.
● Access to startup capital is a common need for businesses, but it’s even harder in rural places which often have fewer banking institutions and angel investors. CEDA has been working to bridge that gap by hosting virtual events for the RBIL cohort to connect directly with investors and lenders, learning about venture capital, angel investment, traditional business lending, and other creative ways to approach financing as they scale.
● To assist the RBIL cohort in the day-to-day operational challenges and knowledge gaps, CEDA has also partnered with several industry experts for consulting on topics such as human resources, CPG consumer testing, legislative engagement, and accounting.
Stay tuned for more updates on the Rural Business Innovation Lab, including information on how to apply for the next cohort (applications will open in early 2024). To learn more about the current businesses involved in the RBIL program, please visit CEDA’s website or reach out to Director of Strategic Initiatives Robert Harris III (email@example.com).