The recent merger of Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest business plan competition, or GLEQ, and the Small Business Foundation of Michigan, or SBFM, has created a new, high-powered nonprofit organization, called MiQuest, with a mission to “ignite, unleash and promote a culture of entrepreneurship in Michigan.” The new entity is based in Lansing.
Combining GLEQ’s entrepreneurship education, mentoring and business plan competitions for entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups with the foundation’s programs and services for small, established businesses will produce a more-cohesive continuum of support to accelerate the formation and growth of Michigan-based entrepreneurial companies. The merger, announced on Jan. 30, also unites GLEQ’s 13,000 participants in the entrepreneurial ecosystem with SBFM’s 21,000 business connections across the state in joint efforts to promote greater synergy and communications among entrepreneurs at all levels of expertise and experience.
“MiQuest fills an important gap in the services provided by entrepreneurial-support organizations in Michigan,” explains Diane Durance, the president of MiQuest and former executive director of GLEQ. “The state has developed cohesive programs to help new ventures move from concept to launch. But once start-ups are launched, they typically do not have the support they need to become second-stage, revenue-producing companies. MiQuest is working to bridge that gap by developing programs to help these post-launch ventures achieve stability, become profitable and pursue growth strategies.”
MiQuest’s new initiatives are focused on establishing broad-based peer-to-peer advisory programs and CEO support networks that strengthen the management capabilities of start-up founders and teams by connecting them with seasoned entrepreneurs and experienced executives who can provide mentoring and guidance. “We want to identify ambitious entrepreneurs around the state, engage them in advisory groups and programs and then identify individuals who could benefit from a mentorship relationship,” Durance says. “In the process, we hope to accelerate the spread of expert knowledge and business insight that is bubbling up through our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Existing programs ─ including the GLEQ business plan competition and the foundation’s Entrepreneurship Score Card to assess Michigan’s entrepreneurship assets, climate and progress ─ will be continued jointly under the new merger. This spring, according to Durance, the announcement of the 2014 award winners of the annual GLEQ business plan competition will coincide with the kickoff of the 2014 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium. The awards will be handed out at a breakfast gathering before the symposium officially opens at noon on June 17. The competition originated at and was administered by the Zell Lurie Institute at the Ross School of Business until 2006 when GLEQ was spun out as a standalone nonprofit and took over the program. MiQuest plans to continue GLEQ’s previous sponsorship of the MGCS.
Over the past decade, GLEQ has helped more than 7,000 start-up ventures refine their business plans and move to the next stage. “This merger represents an important growth stage for us and an opportunity to make our entrepreneurial-support programs more sustainable,” Durance says. “With our new merger partner, we will be able to reach out and help companies throughout their entrepreneurial lifecycle. This will have a greater impact on Michigan’s economy and jobs creation in the state while giving us a more diverse array of companies to work with.”