Becoming a Resource
Samalid Hogan says that, when the website Innovate413 was launched roughly four years ago, it was with a desire to not only promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the region, but to inspire more of both.
And when she agreed to essentially take over the initiative early last year, she admitted the original goal was just to “keep it going,” as she put it, because she could clearly see the value it represented.
But rather than just keep it going, she has committed herself to taking its mission, and its offerings, to a much higher level. And with the help of a growing team that includes Robyn Caody, a business-culture and brand strategist who relocated to the region from New York City, Hogan, best known as director of the Western Mass. Small Business Development Center and winner of BusinessWest’s Continued Excellence Award last year, is doing just that.
Indeed, Innovate 413, or Inno413, for short, has become a multi-platform initiative, with a website (www.innovate413) as well as a monthly newsletter and comprehensive calendar of events related to entrepreneurship, professional development, and business management.
In addition to publishing original content, Innovate413 also aggregates and links to entrepreneurial news from outside sources, provides resources for entrepreneurs in the Pioneer Valley, and encourages its partner organizations to submit their own content highlighting innovative trends within their businesses.
The broad goals, said Hogan, are to educate and motivate the audience and also promote the region and all that’s happening within it, especially when it comes to a steadily growing startup community.
“There’s a big start-up culture here, a culture of creativity — I could sense that. But since I moved here, it’s been hard to find these people; I know they’re here, but where’s the community hub? How can I find out what people are doing? Innovate413 is a way to make that more obvious.”
“When I took it over, the goal was to just keep it alive and post items on the site,” she explained. “But now we’re actively engaged in taking this to the next level and making it much more of a resource.”
Caody agreed. She said she relocated to this region partly because of the large amounts of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that exist here, and a desire to be part of all that. She joined Innovate413 to help shed some light on all that’s going on.
“There’s a big startup culture here, a culture of creativity — I could sense that,” she explained. “But since I moved here, it’s been hard to find these people; I know they’re here, but where’s the community hub? How can I find out what people are doing? Innovate413 is a way to make that more obvious.”
The content currently on the site provides an effective snapshot of the mission and how it’s carried out. There are several stories from the pages of BusinessWest — including those highlighting agencies such as TechSpring, Valley Venture Mentors, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst, 1Berkshire, and others — and other media outlets. But there is more original content, such as a piece on the upcoming Demo Day, written by Paul Silva, president of Launch413, and short stories on individual businesses.
The site prints articles from agencies like TechSpring (one of the original founders of the site, along with Click Workspace and PixelEdge), Greentown Labs, and others, and submissions from individual entrepreneurs looking to help educate others or just tell their own story.
Headlines on educational stories currently on the site range from “Five Signs You Might Have Second-stage Business” to “Should You Get a Business Certification?” Meanwhile, there are profiles (again, many from BusinessWest) on agencies and businesses ranging from Happier Valley Comedy to Central Rock Gym.
The team at Innovate413 now includes Hogan; Caody, serving as chief Development officer; and Mychal Connolly Sr., an entrepreneur (he founded the venture Stinky Cakes), author, and speaker who serves as chief Marketing officer.
Together, they’re working to make the initiative more of a resource for area entrepreneurs — and the region as a whole — and an ever-more-important part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Western Mass.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here because a lot of organizations that are not really innovative have found themselves wanting to innovate. And we can really be a resource to these agencies.”
The goal moving forward, said Hogan, is to create more original content, build a subscriber base for the monthly newsletter — there are currently a few hundred, and the goal is 1,000 — and continually build the calendar, which is becoming a popular and valuable resource,
Indeed, the calendar posts events being staged by 16 different area organizations within the ecosystem, and organizers do the hard work by pulling the items off those agencies’ websites.
“We post anything that helps entrepreneurs,” said Hogan. “That includes training and educational programs such as those on how to start a business, networking events, pitch competitions, leadership programs, things like Demo Day, blockchain-technology meetups … anything that helps educate entrepreneurs.”
And, looking down the road, those at Innovate413 have a vision of perhaps creating events to help promote entrepreneurship. As with the startups it spotlights, the initiative’s business plan is evolving, said Caody.
“Ultimately, we want to create a community of entrepreneurs and small-business owners,” she said, adding that there is a considerable amount of momentum building within the startup community and the ecosystem that supports it, and Innovate413 wants to tap that energy and use it to fuel additional growth.
Like any business in this region, Innovate413 has the broad goal to be sustainable, said both Hogan and Caody, adding that the initiative is laying a solid foundation that will enable it to do just that.
“There’s a gap when it comes to this kind of service in this region, and we’re filling it, slowly but surely,” said Hogan. “We’re getting there.”
Caody agreed. “There’s a lot of opportunity here because a lot of organizations that are not really innovative have found themselves wanting to innovate,” she explained. “And we can really be a resource to these agencies.”