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Entrepreneurs Assembly offers South Lake Tahoe businesses new resources

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com
Matt Westfield (center) fields updates and questions during an Entrepreneurs Assembly meeting at Lake Tahoe Community College on Thursday, Dec. 3. The Reno-based nonprofit, which expanded into South Lake Tahoe in October, offers entrepreneurs peer mentoring and networking opportunities.
Jack Barnwell / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Energy filled the Aspen Room at Lake Tahoe Community College on Thursday, Dec. 3, as an assembly of entrepreneurs and potential business owners discussed ideas.

That’s the core concept of the nonprofit Entrepreneurs Assembly, according to co-founder and board member Matt Westfield.

“The purpose of Entrepreneurs Assembly is to show people how to stay on track with real-world scenarios and experience from actual entrepreneurs who donate their time,” Westfield said. “A lot of people go out looking for information on entrepreneurship and there’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

The Reno, Nevada-based nonprofit offers mentoring and advice from successful entrepreneurs, creates networking opportunities and asks new business owners hard questions.

Westfield founded the nonprofit along with fellow entrepreneur Rod Hosilyk in 2010.

The organization came to Lake Tahoe’s South Shore in October. It partnered with the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, Tahoe Mountain Lab and the Future Business Leaders club at Lake Tahoe Community College. It already offers programs in Incline Village, Nevada and in Carson City, Nevada.

Since South Lake Tahoe’s workshop began, the turnout has been promising. Around 50 people showed up for the first one in October, 20 in November and approximately 15 in December.

HOW IT WORKS

In the last three months, entrepreneurs and business owners have met at the college in monthly “virtual incubator” sessions to brainstorm, network and originate successful business ideas. Entrepreneurs Assembly meets the first Thursday of every month from 6-9 p.m.

People break up into groups and receive 30-day marching orders they can implement before the next workshop. Experienced mentors help the people in a group and act as a sounding board.

Those goals could include creating a marketing plan, netting their first paying customer or researching local business regulations. Another element of the group is helping business owners cover the fundamentals of starting a business.

“A lot of entrepreneurs go forward from their idea thinking that they are going to make millions or billions of dollars,” Westfield said. “What they don’t realize … is that the road is full of pitfalls and edges, so we help them navigate that.”

According to Westfield, everything shared in the room remains confidential.

David Orr, co-founder of Tahoe Mountain Lab, a co-working space, said the group benefits South Shore small businesses and start-ups.

“It’s a unique format centered around peer mentorship, so it’s based on the idea that you’re only as smart as your friends are,” Orr said. “If you put yourself around a lot of entrepreneurial friends, a lot of information is shared.”

The assembly also opens up access to potential funding and investors.

“If you’re found to be a bright, shining star with a really good idea in a business that is doing really well, those investors will reach out to you,” Orr said.

CREATING A BROAD FRAMEWORK

Westfield sees South Lake Tahoe workshops as just an expansion of the nonprofit.

“We want to create a region of entrepreneurship that isn’t just focused on Reno or Lake Tahoe,” Westfield said. “We believe that bringing people at the lake, people in Reno, and in Carson City together expands the network.”

Anne Marie Smith, leader of Tahoe Chamber’s Tahoe Tactical Team business coaching program, agrees. She added that Entrepreneurs Assembly compliments the chamber’s program.

Where Tahoe Tactical Team provides one-on-one planning and workshops for existing and new businesses, Entrepreneurs Assembly acts as a peer support group.

In addition to the coaching program available at Tahoe Chamber, Smith said the Small Business Development Center also offers a coaching program for those who don’t meet Tahoe Chamber’s requirements.

According to Smith, all three programs offer a complete circle for the small business community.

“We are trying to give this town an ecosystem that supports people as they try to start up a business,” Smith said.

Where the assembly differs from Tahoe Chamber’s business coaching program are the marching orders that come at the end of each workshop.

“It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable as an entrepreneur, because you’re on your own and need to work harder,” she said.

She added that all three programs help harness the entrepreneurial spirit that exists on Tahoe’s South Shore.

“We’re really seeing a lot more opportunity in the types of businesses that people are thinking about,” Smith said.

Westfield agrees, calling the increase “a building wave” that lacked cohesion up until the last few years. Resources offered by Tahoe Mountain Lab, Tahoe Chamber, Lake Tahoe Community College and recently the Entrepreneurs Assembly are changing that.

“We’re making entrepreneurs believe they can succeed and putting smart people around them to help drive that agenda,” Westfield said.

For more information on Entrepreneurs Assembly, visit http://www.ea-nv.org.


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