Tag Archives: entrepreneur

PR Solutions CEO discusses New Orleans’ Workforce in September Issue of Biz New Orleans Magazine

Michelle D. Jackson, CEO, PR Solutions LLC

Michelle Jackson, CEO of New Orleans-based PR Solutions LLC, discusses the Big Easy’s economic drivers, including workforce development and the emerging tech start-up community, in the September issue of Biz New Orleans Magazine. 

Click to read her article, The Sweet Spot.

More on Michelle Jackson:

Jackson is the owner of PR Solutions LLC of Louisiana, a strategic marketing and corporate event planning consulting firm, Founder of the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition and Executive Director of LifeSkills Foundation, a 501 c3 organization dedicated to advocating for youth entrepreneurship. Before moving to New Orleans, Jackson worked for six years for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) where she held the positions of Director of Federal Facilities, Director of Boards and Commissions and Director of the Office of Strategic Industries and Innovations, the agency’s first department dedicated to working with start-up companies in high-tech industries. Jackson led the policy development effort to create the InvestMaryland program, a first-of-its-kind legislative initiative that raised $84 million for seed and early-stage ventures and the InvestMaryland Challenge, Maryland’s first international business competition for advanced technology startup companies. Jackson is a military wife and published author. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from The University of Alabama and Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University. 

2016 i.Invest National Youth Business Competition Winners Announced

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Businesses from left to right: MoTrack, Beacon, RapidFire & Hopes for the Best.

PR Solutions LLC today announced the winners of the first annual i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Mentored by a group of volunteer business and academic leaders from organizations, including Google, SEI Investments and Johns Hopkins University, four teams were selected from a pool of more than 25 to compete in a six-month web-based competition in order to qualify for the top prize.

This year’s winners are:

  • First Place Beacon (formerly Atrium). Developed by Shrenik Jain, a 19-year-old Baltimore, MD resident. Beacon is a mobile platform that offers anonymity and support to those suffering from mental health issues. Prize: $2,000 non-equity investment, title of Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year and the opportunity to pitch at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
  • Second Place – MoTrack Therapy. Developed by Rahul Yerrabelli, 18, Benjamin Pikus, 18, Himanshu Dashora, 18, Parth Singh, 19 and Adam Polevoy,19, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. MoTrack is a virtual reality software that has revolutionized the way patients can receive physical therapy for hand and wrist injuries. Prize: $1,000 non-equity investment
  • Third Place – RapidFire. Developed by Marc Baghadjian, 17, from Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT. RapidFire is an automated air-soft gun clip with the capacity to increase bullets to 400 per round, making the air-soft sport experience completely hands-free for users. Prize: $500 non-equity investment
  • Community Investment Award – Hopes for the Best. Developed by Cheyenne Rhone, 15, from West Mifflin High School in West Mifflin, PA. Hopes for the Best designs a fashion survival bracelet made from a special material called para cord 550 that can safely hold up to 500 lbs. Prize: $250 non-equity investment;opportunity to observe a BlueTree Allied Angels screening meeting and to participate in a one-hour consulting session with serial entrepreneur and executive director/chairman, Don Morrison; face-to-face legal consultation from Cherin Law Firm in Pittsburgh, PA and e-commerce consultation from LaToya C. Staten & Associates in Baltimore, MD.

In addition, all the winners will receive a one-hour marketing consultation with PR Solutions LLC; the opportunity to be a vendor and/or speaker during the #EYECON Youth Conference in May 2017 at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD; and, the opportunity to participate in a “Ask the Start-Up Attorney” no-fee virtual consultation with Cherin Law Firm.

“To say the competition exceeded our expectation is an understatement,” said executive director, Michelle Jackson. “We set out to create a mentoring program focused on bridging the gap between youth entrepreneurs with viable products and experienced business leaders. However, what we ultimately have is a way to shine a light on creative ideas being developed by the next generation of innovators – youth who learn through this process that no matter their age, geographical location or educational accomplishments, creating a great product can transcend all perceived limitations.”

The i.Invest competition is open to youth 13 to 19 years old with a demonstrable product or service. During the three rounds of scoring, applicants are required to submit a business concept profile, business plan, pitch video and participate in on-line group coaching with select judges.

“i.Invest doesn’t end with the awarding of prizes,” said Jackson. “Now that the winners have completed the process, they will continue to have access to our mentors. We are here to help them reach their personal and professional goals.”

The 2017 i.Invest competition will be launched in the coming months. To receive event updates and sponsorship information visit the i.Invest website or contact Michelle Jackson at mjackson@i-investcompetition.com.

Special thanks to the i.Invest 2016 Judges & Mentors

Artis Keith Turner, Serial Entrepreneur, President of TurnGroup Technologies, LLC, 2015 Innovation Fellowship for the Venture Café & YouthCITIES Youth

Craig Dixon, AWS Educate, Amazon Web Services

Curtis H. Austin, Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton

Daraius Irani, Associate VP, DIAR of Towson University

David Tucker, Jr., Founder & Executive Director, On The Set Summer Film Camp

Don Morrison, Chairman of Deal Flow, BlueTree Allied Angels

Dr. Mansur Hasib, Professor and Author, University System of Maryland

Dr. Tamecka Knight, CEO & Owner, Premier Pediatrics of Houston

James Parren Courtney II, Owner, Courtney Consultants, LLC

Jennifer Mrzlack Co-founder, Naturi

Jerry Cozewith, Director of Development, Sarah Heinz House

Julie Kantor, CEO and Founder, Twomentor LLC

Ketaki Desai, Executive Director, eCenter@LindenPointe

LaToya Staten, Chief Collaborator, LaToya C. Staten & Associates

Matthew Miessau, Analyst, Epidarex Capital

Mike Capsambelis, Product Manager, Google

Mojdeh Bahar, Assistant Administer for Technology Transfer, USDA

Omar S. Muhammad, “Intrapreneur” & Director of the Entrepreneurial Development & Assistance Center (EDAC), Morgan State University

Professor Jim Liew, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

Regina Tillery, Director and CIO, Maryland Department of Commerce

Roderick Square, General Electric Hitachi

Susan R. Ramonat, Business Development Executive, Chief Risk Officer, SEI Investment

Timothy Taylor, CPA

Vernon Lee, Founder, Brightwood Management Partners, LLC

About PR Solutions LLC

PR Solutions LLC is a strategic marketing and corporate event planning firm that specializes in working with new and established ventures to build viable business models and to integrate innovative marketing tools into for-profit and non-profit business strategies. PR Solutions is the parent company of the i.Invest competition. To learn more, visit http://www.prsolutions123.com.

13-Year-Old Pittsburgh Youth Entrepreneur Uses All-Natural Ingredients to Create Lip Balm

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A’Niyah Dixon, 13, from Manchester Academic Charter School in Pittsburgh, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. With her business, Winter’s Heart, A’Niyah hopes to put an end to chapped lips once and for all.

Tell us a little about your business.

Winter’s Heart is a bubble gum lip balm that A’Niyah plans on marketing to both females and males. Unlike other lip balms on the market, A’Niyah crafts her products with safe ingredients including food dye, petroleum jelly, bees wax and bubble gum. To appeal to everyone, the lip balms are clear and sold in different colors; therefore, males can purchase a product traditionally sold to women.

What inspired the creation of Winter’s Heart?

After trying a number of different brands, A’Niyah became frustrated that no lip balm on the market was able to cure her dry, chapped lips. When she began to research the industry, she was shocked to see the ingredients in some of the big name products on the market, so she decided to create a safe lip balm that would protect and heal damaged lips.

What challenges will Winter’s Heart face?

The cosmetic market is incredibly competitive and dominated by big name brands that hold a large market share. A’Niyah will have to invest a significant amount of capital into marketing to expand outside of her community. Because she hopes to market to both females and males, A’Niyah will face a challenge presenting lip balm in a way that is appealing to both genders. She may have to consider expanding her product line to include other scents besides bubble gum to attract a larger customer base.

How will Winter’s Heart impact the world?

A’Niyah hopes to solve a problem that many people face on a daily basis: dry, chapped lips. She also hopes to serve as an inspiration to her community and prove that kids, even at the young age of 13, are able to get out there and make a difference in the world with hard work and dedication.

What are the next steps for Winter’s Heart?

A’Niyah hopes to secure funding to expand her business in the near future. She plans on using the funds to pay for advertising and also to expand her existing product line. She hopes to also have business cards created so she can pass them out in her community and spread the word about Winter’s Heart.

To stay abreast of Winter Heart’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, A’Niyah!

13-Year-Old Pittsburgh Youth Entrepreneur Hopes to Beautify Your Garden, One Pot at a Time

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Andre Rhone, 13, from West Mifflin Middle School in West Mifflin, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. Andre has always thought of himself as a creative person, and with his new business, Andre’s Plants, he finally gets to put these skills to good use.

Tell us a little about your business.

Andre created a decorative pot business so people in his community can display their potted plants or flowers in a beautiful setting. He uses items from around the house, such as ribbon and candy, to create unique, eye-catching designs that are so appealing, you just might not pay attention to the blooming flowers in the pot! After selling these decorative pots at community events, Andre realized that the demand for his product was high, and hopes to grow Andre’s Plants in the future.

What inspired the creation of Andre’s Plants?

After seeing so many plain pots in his home and around his community, Andre became frustrated. He looked at these pots as a canvas to design beautiful things with unique objects. Andre decided that he would be the one to use his creativity to transform the potting industry, one plant at a time! With his mom’s financial support, he began to purchase pots and decorate them with household items and candy pieces, and Andre’s Plants was born.

What challenges will Andre’s Plants face?

Each design that Andre creates is unique, which places a lot of pressure on him to come up with different ideas for items to use and how to place them. Because potted plants are a somewhat seasonal item, Andre’s pots may see fluctuations in sales, especially during the fall and winter months.

How will Andre’s Plants impact the world?

Andre’s mission is simple: to make the world a more beautiful place! Flowers and plants are designed to spruce up gardens and homes, but with decorative pots, they’ll be even more beautiful.

What are the next steps for Andre’s Plants?

Andre is currently not seeking investors for his business; however, he does hope to expand his business’s presence in the local community and on a larger scale. Eventually, Andre would like to open an Etsy store to sell his pots to customers around the world. Selling on Etsy would allow him to maintain low operating costs while reaching a huge audience.

To stay abreast of Andre’s Plants’ progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Andre!

 

17-Year-Old Greenwich, Connecticut Youth Entrepreneur Redefines the Airsoft Experience

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Marc Baghadjian, 17, from Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. Marc took his passion for the airsoft experience and turned it into a viable business, RapidFire.

Tell us a little about your business.

Traditional airsoft guns have a capacity of around 30 bullets, which can be shot out in approximately 15 seconds. Every time the user has to reload the magazine, he or she will waste about 30 seconds manually churning the equipment to properly load in the ammo. With RapidFire, this manual churning process is automated, and the capacity increases to around 400 bullets, making the airsoft experience completely hands-free for users.

What inspired the creation of RapidFire?

Being a huge fan of airsoft, Marc became frustrated with the time that it took to load bullets into the weapon. He began to realize that every reload was costing him between 20-30 seconds, only to run out of bullets within a minute or so because of the limited capacity of the magazine. He decided to design a magazine that not only would hold up to 400 bullets, but also reload on its own, allowing customers to focus on the game and not on their ammo.

What challenges will RapidFire face?

RapidFire would like to get into licensing deals with larger companies. To do so, they will need to convince seasoned brands why RapidFire is more beneficial than the existing product. This is a niche market; therefore, RapidFire will have to become a market leader in order to grow into a strong business.

How will RapidFire impact the world?

RapidFire will revolutionize the growing airsoft industry and make it easier for people to handle the equipment. Because RapidFire will load on its own, users will not need to focus on learning how to stop and reload when out of ammo.

What are the next steps for RapidFire?

RapidFire’s first goal is to complete the production of a marketable product at the Thayer School of Engineering. Marc expects this to take around 3-6 weeks to complete. Once this phase is done, Marc will move on to contacting large airsoft manufacturers to discuss potential licensing deals. Down the road, Marc hopes that one day this technology will be universally used for every airsoft magazine.

To stay abreast of RapidFire’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Marc!

 

Johns Hopkins Engineering Students Develop Virtual Hand, Wrist Physical Therapy Software

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Group photo (from left to right): Adam Polevoy, Parth Singh, Rahul Yerrabelli, Himanshu Dashora. Single photo: Benjamin Pikus

Rahul Yerrabelli, 18, Benjamin Pikus, 18, Himanshu Dashora, 18, Parth Singh, 19, and Adam Polevoy,19, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, are one of the teams participating in this year’s i.Invest Competition. Each of these young men are studying Biomedical Engineering, and were eager to solve one of the many issues facing the medical community with their company, MoTrack Therapy.

Tell us a little about your business.

MoTrack is a virtual reality software that has completely revolutionized the way that patients can receive physical therapy for hand and wrist injuries. Using the Leap Motion hardware and a webcam, MoTrack can track and interpret movements made by the patient’s hand and wrist. The patient can therefore complete physical therapy exercises at home and receive feedback on ways to improve in real-time. Because the exercises are designed to be more interactive and entertaining than traditional physical therapy, it is expected that MoTrack will have a higher rate of patient compliance to the regimen.

What inspired the creation of MoTrack?

After a friend suffered a serious wrist injury from playing cricket, these young men were surprised to see the intensive, time-consuming therapy that was needed to treat his injury. Years later, they participated in a weekend-long hackathon, MedHacks, where they were asked to use various gadgets to create a new medical invention. One of these gadgets happened to be a hand-tracking sensor used to track movements in virtual reality gaming. After putting their heads together and brainstorming, MoTrack was born.

What challenges will MoTrack face?

There are a few competitors in the same industry. However, MoTrack has the competitive edge when it comes to size and portability of the device. Furthermore, the current competitors are either focused in the European market or focused in general body therapy as opposed to hand therapy. In order to be successful, MoTrack will need to focus on educating consumers about the benefits of choosing MoTrack over other forms of therapy.

How will MoTrack impact the world?

Hand and wrist therapy is not only time-consuming, but costly and inconvenient as well. With MoTrack, patients will no longer have to schedule multiple appointments and travel to medical professionals’ offices to receive treatment. Instead, they will be able to do recommended exercises in the comfort of their own home while still receiving feedback about their progress and how they can improve. The cost of MoTrack therapy is far less than the cost of an in-office physical therapy appointment, so this software allows people of all income levels to receive the care that they need.

What are the next steps for MoTrack?

MoTrack has received $10,000 in non-dilutive funding from the Johns Hopkins University Ralph O’Connor Fund as well as an additional $300 from a Johns Hopkins University DMC grant. MoTrack hopes to secure another $50,000 from investors to cover the costs of patenting, running clinical trials and launching a large-scale marketing campaign.

To stay abreast of MoTrack’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Rahul, Benjamin, Himanshu, Parth and Adam!

 

 

19-Year-Old Penn State Student Uses 3D Printing to Keep Headphone Cords Tangle-Free

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Shemar Coombs, 19, from Pennsylvania State University in Philadelphia, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. After dealing with tangled or lost headphones for far too long, Shemar came up with a solution to this problem with his company, Rap It Up.

Tell us a little about your business.

Rap It Up is an iPhone case that allows customers to store their headphones safely without having to worry about them getting tangled or damaged. This case features a U-shaped channel on the side to easily and neatly store headphones. Designed with 3D printing, Rap It Up is sleek and sophisticated, so customers won’t have to worry about toting around a bulky phone case.

What inspired the creation of Rap It Up?

While Shemar was in a Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship class, he was given the task of coming up with a business idea that would make an impact in the world. It just so happens that in the same week he was given the assignment, he learned about 3D printing and its capabilities. With this knowledge in mind, he set out to put an end to the annoyance of tangled and damaged headphones once and for all.

What challenges will Rap It Up face?

The smartphone accessory market is very competitive and crowded, so Rap It Up may have to spend a substantial amount of capital on marketing to secure distribution. Although there are a few competitors in the market who have similar products, each of them has disadvantages. One of the competitors has a much bulkier design that makes it inconvenient to carry, while the other does not allow customers to use their own headphones. Once 3D printing becomes more mainstream, Rap It Up may face other competitors who also want to take advantage of this new technology.

How will Rap It Up impact the world?

Not only does Rap It Up solve a common problem that customers face on a daily basis, Shemar will also use his platform to better the world around him. Shemar is passionate about recycling, so when his business is up and running, he plans on encouraging customers to recycle old, unused phones. Customers who follow Shemar’s lead by recycling will be rewarded with a slight percentage off of the purchase price of a Rap It Up case.

What are the next steps for Rap It Up?

Shemar hopes to secure funding after this competition to help Rap It Up cover patenting and marketing costs. Because of the competitive landscape of the phone accessory market, Shemar plans on dedicating the majority of any funds to building a strong brand presence.

To stay abreast of Rap It Up’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Shemar!

Youth Social Entrepreneur & i.Invest Applicant Provides Specially Designed Bikes to Students in Bangladesh

 

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Wu, 16, Youth Entrepreneur from Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA provides bikes to people in Bangladesh

Randy Wu, 16, from Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. LyfeCycle, which started as an idea in a model UN class, has now turned into Randy’s life mission: to help the less fortunate in developing countries.

Tell us a little about your business.

LyfeCycle is a nonprofit organization that is on a mission to mobilize people around the world using bicycles. This nonprofit donates specially designed and assembled bicycles to students, entrepreneurs and healthcare workers in Bangladesh. The bikes are designed to meet the unique needs of each village in Bangladesh, something that differentiates it from its competitors. LyfeCycle recruited volunteers in Bangladesh to support their mission by contacting high schools and universities in the area. These volunteers run the division overseas and also support efforts to get the local government involved in the mission. Currently, bikes are sold through the local Bangladeshi government who support the efforts to improve the lives of citizens in rural areas.

What inspired the creation of LyfeCycle?

LyfeCycle started as a project in a model UN class Randy’s friends from New York, Jason Lu and Ariful Islam, participated in. They recognized that in developing countries, distance to healthcare, education and job opportunities hindered a lot of people’s ability to have a better quality of life.  They knew that giving these kids bikes would greatly alleviate the stress they felt in getting to school, so they set about figuring out how to provide bikes to developing countries. Randy  was passionate about providing both educational and industrial opportunities to the youth and wanted to help them achieve their goals.


What challenges will LyfeCycle face?

Because LyfeCycle is a nonprofit that relies mainly on donations, grants and fundraisers, raising enough capital by spreading the word about LyfeCycle’s mission will always be a priority. Right now, LyfeCycle is focused on providing bikes to citizens of Bangladesh, so they will need to expand resources in order to move into other territories.

How will LyfeCycle impact the world?

LyfeCycle enhances the lives of people in developing countries, specifically Bangladesh, by providing them with bicycles. When bicycles are given to underprivileged people in Bangladesh, they immediately have access to better educational, economic and healthcare opportunities. LyfeCycle is making the world a better place, one bicycle at a time!

What are the next steps for LyfeCycle?

LyfeCycle is currently partnered with the fourth largest law firm in the world, Kirkland Ellis, LLP. In the near future, LyfeCycle hopes to secure at least $3,000 in funding to expand their operations. With these funds, LyfeCycle will be able to offer more incentive for local organizations in Bangladesh to help their cause, and also secure more bikes that can be donated.

To stay abreast of LyfeCycle’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Randy!

 

 

15-Year-Old Entrepreneur Creates Survival Bracelets that offer Fashion + Functionality

cheyenne rhone F9751 750Cheyenne Rhone, 15, from West Mifflin High School in West Mifflin, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. Although she can’t legally drive a car on her own yet, she has already created a business, Hopes for the Best, that reminds customers to stay positive and be prepared for any situation.

Tell us a little about your business.

At first glance, these bracelets may seem to be just decorative, beautiful designs. However, there is much more to these bracelets than meets the eye. Each design is made from a special material called para cord 550 that can safely hold up to 500 lbs. If you’re ever in an emergency situation, the bracelet can be unraveled and used as a rope, a clothesline or to pull up heavy objects.

What inspired the creation of Hopes for the Best?

Raised as a Girl Scout, Cheyenne was inspired to create Hopes for the Best after learning how to make rope bracelets with her troop. However, Cheyenne wanted more than just a visually appealing piece of jewelry, so she sought to add function to her decheyenne rhone F9791 750signs. She used the knowledge that she gained in survival training to turn her rope bracelets into a tool that could save lives in extreme situations. When deciding on a name, Cheyenne was inspired by a phrase that she wishes everyone would live by, hope for the best. Cheyenne hopes that her customers wear her bracelets with positive hopes for the future.

What challenges will Hopes for the Best face?

Hopes for the Best is in quite a competitive market since there are so many other jewelry designers out there. However, Cheyenne seeks to separate herself from the competition because her bracelets are both functional and fashionable. Right now, Hopes for the Best bracelets are sold solely through street festivals and community days, however the company will need to secure distribution on a larger scale to see higher earnings.

How will Hopes for the Best impact the world?

Because Cheyenne is on a mission to spread hope for the future, she has decided to donate 10% of her earnings to a charity of the customer’s choice. This will without a doubt make a positive impact in the world and inspire others to follow in Cheyenne’s footsteps.

Her bracelets are also made from biodegradable materials. These eco-conscious designs will prove that you don’t have to sacrifice beauty or style to reduce your carbon footprint in the world.

What are the next steps for Hopes for the Best?

Next, Cheyenne plans to continue spreading the word about Hopes for the Best and its positive message. Her goal is to launch a website to expand distribution and increase sales.

To stay abreast of Hopes for the Best’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Cheyenne!

 

 

 

Contained, Stored or Leashed: How not to handle innovation

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Have you ever watched an innovator convert an idea into a practical concept, mold that concept into a viable business model then employ an operational process that allows a new venture to spread its wings and soar? If not, you should, because the sheer curiosity and eagerness of a dedicated business leader is inspirational beyond words.

It takes commitment to start a business.

It takes boldness to put forth an innovative idea.

It takes heart to see it through to the very end.

For those of us privileged to work with business trailblazers, we’ve witnessed many new ideas take flight. But in order to help these pilots stay above the clouds, both public and private sectors must do more to avoid putting roadblocks in their path.

Innovation is the idea of thinking differently about how we do things. In many ways it is the key to building a better world. From the development of the polio vaccination to the creation of the Internet and beyond, when we inhibit innovation by not providing the resources needed to mature an innovator’s dynamic ideas, we are also hindering our own personal and professional growth.

Innovation should never be contained, stored or leashed. To grant it the freedom it needs to change the world, it must be unfettered then fueled. But the fueling becomes the problem.  In order to properly drive innovation, public and private sectors must create pools of resources accessible to both thriving ventures and start-up companies.

In a perfect world, every program created in the name of entrepreneurship would offer hefty funding resources, mentorship and collaborative opportunities. But we live in the real world. With countless limits on capital resources for new businesses and political opposition to funding more research and development, roadblocks to innovation will continue to exist over time unless we act now.

So, how can we give innovation the freedom to thrive? Here are my three ideas to help public and private sectors broaden their view of the entrepreneurs’ needs:

Money matters. You’ve heard it a million times: access to capital is key. Well, it is. No company succeeds without financial support.  Call it what you want – crazy, ill-conceived or unorthodox – but the process of creating new technology is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall. You sling it until it sticks and when it does, you peel it off, figure out what made it stick in the first place then do it all over again. But if every sling at the wall costs $50,000 or more, innovators may only get one chance at success. Therefore, the key is to ensure that all public and private entrepreneurial programs develop strategies that will provide multiple layers of funding for companies at each stage.  One shot just isn’t enough.

Failure isn’t final.  Public and private entrepreneurial programs should be designed with failure in mind. In a recent Forbes magazine article, “Why is Innovation so Hard?,” writer Edward D. Hess discusses a key factor in what hinders us from accepting failure. He writes: Our educational system and most work environments have taught us that good performance means avoiding failure, not making mistakes. This is a big problem, because failure is an unavoidable part of innovation experimentation.

Innovation requires the willingness to fail and learn. But failure comes at a cost that most investors don’t want to take on. Innovators with great ideas often fail at the early-stage because of a lack of financial support. Programs created to help them will often offer assistance worth the value of one sling at the wall and nothing more. To change this, we must shift our psychological acceptance of failure and instill new ways of thinking into public and private program development.  Although failure may be final to most investors, to a serial entrepreneur it can be the beginning of a new onslaught of creative ideas and concepts that deserve a chance at success.

Supporting the best and disregarding the rest is no way to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. The best of the best technologies can be found at the least attractive places. Great ideas can come from anywhere. From basements in an urban community to labs at junior colleges, entrepreneurial programs should throw out the status quo and start looking for great inventions in some of the most unlikely places. We must learn to support business growth at all levels and create new avenues for innovators to get the recognition they deserve regardless of their educational background, income level or geographical location.

Let’s work together to ensure that innovators are provided the resources they need to soar.

Written by Michelle D. Jackson, CEO, PR Solutions LLC & Executive Director, i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition