Dubuque County Business Lab aims to grow current, future entrepreneurs

A new business lab aims to help current and future business owners grow.

The Dubuque County Business Lab launched in early June to offer free, primarily virtual services at no cost to county business owners looking to utilize its services. The new lab is an initiative through The Innovation Lab, in partnership with Dubuque County. It is funded through the county’s federal American Rescue Plan Act allotment.

“We know business owners are super busy and don’t have a whole lot of time in the day to take a step back and look at the big picture of their business,” said Jordan DeGree, executive director of nonprofit Idea Bright, which launched The Innovation Lab and Creative Adventure Lab in Dubuque. “These resources are a way for them to think about their business more strategically and get help when adjusting the nitty-gritty of their business, as well.”

DeGree said the idea for the new business lab grew from survey results from entrepreneurs about what was needed to address gaps in Dubuque County’s business climate, with additional business support services and opportunities to continue professional development among the top answers.

He added that similar business labs have been created across the Midwest. Data tracked at those labs since early 2020 show 87% of the businesses that received coaching from a business lab reported positive growth afterward.

“We’re really trying to take a community-focused approach to engage entrepreneurs to create solutions by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs,” DeGree said.

Some of the services offered by the lab include virtual, one-on-one coaching opportunities in a variety of topics, as well as virtual peer-learning roundtables with entrepreneurs across the country to share ideas. Lab users can also access a curated podcast library and workshop library catered to businesses.

“The reason that we decided to make this a virtual-first program is … it allowed us to fill resource gaps in communities that maybe didn’t have as many startup or business-growth services,” DeGree added. “…The business lab model can meet them where they are at, when it’s convenient for them.”

While not specifically from the Dubuque County Business Lab, Gaia Waxing Studio owner Chrystina Morteo-Bowman has received similar services from Innovation Lab since 2019. Through one-on-one coaching, she said she has developed a vision of growth for her business along with a budget forecast.

“I’m not a numbers person,” she said. “I’m a creative. But now I know how we’re going to continue to generate revenue and make my business a success. … If there is an opportunity for you to have a coach like this, especially if it’s a free service, take advantage of it. It’s a clear path now, and having someone that’s an ear, or says encouraging words, helps you get past it.”

More information on the Dubuque County Business Lab, including signing up for services, can be found online at bit.ly/3q6xkvq.