If you read my last blog, you know that I am new to LIGHTS. Being new to any job comes with its learning experiences, awkward encounters, misunderstandings, and mistakes. It’s all fine and part of the process! One of my first mistakes was being woefully unprepared for a networking opportunity during a day-long training I attended a few weeks ago. I found myself stumbling over my words, fumbling through my wallet for business cards (I only had two with me) and being generally clueless about networking, its purpose, and why it matters. In contrast my boss and fearless leader, Jen Simon, was engaging, excited, prepared with goals of specific individuals she wanted to connect with, and of course, she had a ton of business cards.
Realizing my ignorance, I decided to do a quick google search to see what the internet could tell me about networking. I found some reputable sources (Forbes, Business Insider, LinkedIn) all saying the same thing; if you’re strategic about it, networking fosters mutually beneficial relationships to help you or your company get where you’re trying to go. OK, great, easy-peasy. But.. what now? How do you determine who will be beneficial to you or your business? A good place to start is finding a group of people who are already doing what you want to do. People who have been where you are.
As you might know, LIGHTS and the Innovation Gateway Network’s mission is to aid entrepreneurs, innovators, and makers by providing access to coaches, classes, and equipment to get them to the next level with their idea.
Becoming a LIGHTS client, a member of one of our makerspaces and/or a tenant in our incubator spaces provides access to the whole LIGHTS network.
The LIGHTS network of Gateways have so many opportunities for makers and entrepreneurs:
- Access to business and product coaches who can help you develop your idea
- Entrepreneurs in residence, a group of your peers who can provide another opportunity to soundboard your business idea
- Access to potential funders (such as TechGROWTH Ohio) when appropriate, to provide startup capital
- The potential for access to incubation space, a place to run your business
- Access to support from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) through the Cleveland Public Library’s Ohio Pro Bono Patent network
- Access to do CAD (computer aided design) translations of prototype sketches, to bring your prototype to life
- Connections to prototyping and maker facilities with embedded experts such as the Athens Makerspace, the Idea Lab at Zane State, the Epicenter and BB2C in Marietta, Kricker Innovation Hub at Shawnee State, the Robert C Byrd Institute in Huntington, WV
- The potential for out of network referrals to connect you with manufacturers or service providers that the network trusts
With all the opportunities available through LIGHTS, consider adding us to your network, then make this network work for you!
Ohio University’s Innovation Center founded the LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability) program in 2016. LIGHTS’ Innovation Network catalyzes the creation of companies to create high-wage jobs, and attract greater private investment in the coal-impacted regions of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The Appalachian Regional Commission generously funded the program because of its unique way of matching complex problems and opportunities facing corporations, communities, and individuals to a network of two strategically-placed Innovation Hubs and seven Gateways. New marketable products arise from these problems. The Gateways and Hubs are new business incubators and makerspaces serving a 28-county area.