By: Bianca Buliga, Content Curator Intern
We here at SEED SPOT believe the world is our oyster, and empowering entrepreneurs is the pearl that lies at the heart of our national expansion model. In order to really dig into the nuts-and-bolts strategy, I sat down with SEED SPOT’s National Director of Expansion, C’pher Gresham, for an in-depth Q&A session.
As the National Director of Expansion, C’pher is leading the charge for bringing SEED SPOT to new cities across the globe. While at SEED SPOT, C’pher developed the SEED SPOT Impact Canvas, the proprietary social enterprise business model canvas that all entrepreneurs in programs use to build their businesses. Receiving his MBA with Distinction from the Thunderbird School of Global Management with a specialization in Venture Capital Finance and Marketing, C’pher is motivated by empowering entrepreneurs to solve problems in their communities. C’pher has a rich entrepreneurship background that includes consulting with a number of incubators, colleges, venture firms, and large pension funds to support the growth of entrepreneurship in their communities. His passion has led him to traverse the world, providing strategic consulting for the Tunisian and Nepali entrepreneurial ecosystems while empowering Colombian coffee growers as co-founder of Swillings Coffee.
Professional achievements aside, C’pher is known among the SEED SPOT staff for his colloquial email headings (“Yo!”), enthusiastic meeting wrap-ups (“BOOM!”), and affinity for hanging twinkle lights all over the office. Corinn, our talented Operations Manager, describes C’pher as the “guy who always shows up” and who “makes more connections in a week than most people do in a year.” Faduma, our shining Program Content Curator, characterizes C’pher as “a creative, quirky dude who is intensely passionate about SEED SPOT.” Jenna, our lovely Market Analysis Intern, claims that C’pher channels Parks and Recreation’s Tom Haverford – “positive, genuine, goofy, and a true entrepreneur at heart!” There exists only unanimous appreciation for the creative soul spearheading SEED SPOT’s expansion efforts. Let’s jump straight into his thoughts!
Bianca: When was SEED SPOT started in Phoenix? Since its inception, what were the main elements that ensured success in the Phoenix metropolitan area?
C’pher: SEED SPOT was founded back in 2012, and we gained success by building a community in which key experts can provide entrepreneurs with the support that fits their unique needs. It comes down to instilling the right culture and core values within SEED SPOT and then transferring those ideals outwards through our connections, outreach, and mentorship. Our mission and core values can be found on our website, where we actively welcome all dreamers and the diversity they offer, strive to protect the entrepreneur from sharking or exploitation, and advocate for optimism in perpetuity by dreaming big and taking risks.
Bianca: Why does SEED SPOT want to expand beyond its home base in Phoenix?
C’pher: In every community, there are talented individuals looking to solve local problems by forming a business, yet they lack the support necessary to make their solutions a reality. The goal of expansion is to lower the barrier for cities globally to support social entrepreneurs. Every dreamer, innovator, entrepreneur, and individual should have access to support for problem-solving and building a business locally and globally. We are expanding because there is a need in other cities. We are expanding because cities have reached out to us. We are expanding because there are problems that need to be solved and entrepreneurs creating social enterprises are the ones to solve them.
Bianca: What are some of the goals that SEED SPOT has in terms of national expansion within the next few years?
C’pher: SEED SPOT is on a mission to empower entrepreneurs throughout the USA and world. We have developed a core curriculum and community around entrepreneurs solving problems in their local community, their state, their country, and the globe. We are aiming to reach as many entrepreneurs in cities that currently do not have the support for social entrepreneurs. Our ultimate goal is 10 cities by the end of 2020.
Bianca: What other cities is SEED SPOT planning on expanding to?
C’pher: We have had outreach and interest from several cities – Atlanta, Richmond, San Diego, Boise, Sacramento, Baton Rouge, Portland, Chicago, Baltimore, Warsaw, Kabul, Yangon, Nairobi, Dakar, and Cape Town. We are currently performing due diligence on several markets.
Bianca: For applicants wanting to bring SEED SPOT to their city, what would you recommend? What is a stand-out application? What does SEED SPOT prioritize and value in regards to a city’s unique needs and demand?
C’pher: We really want to get to know your city and how we can help support all dreamers that want to make an impact. Every city brings a deep history, a vibrant culture, and a great set of advantages for starting businesses – we want to leverage these unique facets in a creative and powerful way.
When looking at a city, we do look for several things:
- Are there other entrepreneur support organizations in the ecosystem? If there are, how can we work with them? To create a robust support network for entrepreneurs, we believe in leveraging a community.
- Are there organizations that support specifically social entrepreneurs? If yes, what stage do they support? SEED SPOT focuses on early-stage social entrepreneurs from idea to first customers.
- Are there underserved populations that lack access to entrepreneurship support?
- The support of a broader community – for a SEED SPOT to be successful it takes a community to support it – mentors, content experts, local support from foundations, local corporations, and the local government. How engaged is the local ecosystem in assisting aspiring entrepreneurs?
Bianca: What resources and support can SEED SPOT provide for a city looking to invest in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem?
C’pher: SEED SPOT supports a city every step of the way in building their ecosystem. The SEED SPOT National Team works side by side with the local leaders to launch a SEED SPOT in their city. We go beyond supplying templates and our proprietary curriculum – we train on fundraising, building an ecosystem, and developing a local investor community. When you work with SEED SPOT, you are not just receiving access, you are receiving a team of supporters.
In addition, SEED SPOT leverages the support power of a national network to lower the costs for each city to operate. We handle the back-end technology support and services that it takes to run a city. This allows the leaders of an ecosystem to focus on supporting entrepreneurs, galvanizing a community, improving the economic opportunity of their city, and being a leader of social entrepreneurship.
Each city will have the ability and adaptability to create new programs to target their cities specific needs. SEED SPOT National will be a bench of resources and tools to encourage innovation by providing:
- A Nationally-Recognized Brand in Entrepreneurship
- Marketing support from 15k+ newsletter subscribers, almost 5,000 Twitter followers, and nearly 5,500 FaceBook likes
- Proprietary Curriculum for all programs that includes training guides, worksheets and templates for entrepreneurs, program schedules
- Training on running a robust entrepreneurship program
- Access to our top-tier mentor network and help in building a local one
- Access to technological support ranging from customer relationships software to a learning management platform designed specifically to support an incubator
- The back-end support for running a business – insurance, accounting, finance, etc.
- How to build a board
- How to build a local team
- How to recruit and market
- How to manage and run events
- How to develop programs for your specific geography and a network of program designers to assist
- Being part of an extensive network of accelerators
Bianca: Where can potential applicants find more information or look for ‘next steps’?
C’pher: Our website is always an excellent place to start for those scoping out our resources. I also encourage any applicants to reach out to me personally! (Proving Corinn to be right about his networking capabilities…)
National Director of Expansion | SEED SPOT
Twitter: @seedspot @cphergresham
To conclude this week’s blog post, I want to extend many thanks to C’pher for his time, his dedication to innovation and transformative entrepreneurship, and his effortless leadership. Are you interested in bringing SEED SPOT to your city? There is no better time than NOW to reach out and create a collaborative space for social entrepreneurship to take root in your own neighborhood! Until next week!
SEED SPOT welcomes all dreamers to participate in our expansion.
Ready to turn your idea into a socially-impactful business venture? Sign up for our full-time program, evening program, or 5-day boot camp here.
Want SEED SPOT to make a difference in your city? Apply now! We’re ready for you. Are you ready for us?
Keywords: incubator, accelerator, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, expansion, social enterprise, network, community
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