Do you have the next big technology? - MTEC SmartZone’s new entrepreneur training program helps you transform your idea into a business.

HOUGHTON- Do you have a new technology idea? Whether you formed that idea in a lab at Michigan Technological University or sitting in your garage, MTEC SmartZone's new entrepreneur training program, "SmartStart," will teach you how to progress your technology from the idea stage to the marketplace.

The SmartStart program is facilitated by SmartStart Consultant Julie Melchiori, MTEC SmartZone Program Director Jonathan Leinonen, and John Diebel and Mike Morley from Michigan Tech's Department of Innovation and Industry Engagement. SmartStart includes hands-on workshops, networking events, consulting and other resources necessary to help entrepreneurs validate their ideas, hone business skills, develop a network of contacts and access business tools and information.

In the "So What, Who Cares, Why You?" portion of SmartStart, participants learn how to clearly, succinctly and specifically articulate the business value of their innovations and new ideas. Entrepreneurs are guided through a validation process that helps them discover whether a niche exists in the marketplace for their product or service. This process can also help identify new opportunities for their idea.

So far, five start-ups have enrolled in SmartStart. Among them is Thomas Daunais, an Electrical Engineering graduate student at Michigan Tech, who said, "I've found the program extremely helpful to begin thinking about what it takes to develop a product and create a successful business. SmartStart put me in touch with people who can help bring this forward."

Erin Thomas, a Michigan Tech computer science graduate student, is developing security technology for web-based communications. She searched for more than a year to find someone who could help but it wasn't until she joined SmartStart that her professional network started to take shape. Erin said, "After a couple of meetings with SmartStart, I made more progress finding people who knew how to help me than I had been able to find on my own." Crediting Mari Buche, a Michigan Tech business professor who assists her, Erin adds, "It's really encouraging to have guidance from Mari, who understands my idea and how to bring it to industry." Other local community professionals volunteer their time to coach start-ups, including sales expert Larry Chopp and entrepreneur Mike Rose.

In addition to hands-on workshops, SmartStart helps individuals develop a professional mentor and advisory network, and teaches marketing, accounting and business management skills. Enrollees can participate in one-on-one consultations throughout the course of the program.

Another great bonus for SmartStart participants is encouragement and opportunities to participate in numerous business boot camps and competition events. MTEC SmartZone helps entrepreneurs attend Ann Arbor SPARK Business Boot Camp, Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest, Accelerate Michigan Competition and other programs.

MTEC SmartZone recently launched Keweenaw Meet-up, a monthly networking event that further supports entrepreneurism in the region. Keweenaw Meet-up was created to provide networking opportunities for small business owners and entrepreneurs who are interested in hearing and sharing experiences growing a small business. Anyone is invited to attend, hear presentations, take part in roundtable discussions and learn what others have done to create successful companies in the Keweenaw.

Keweenaw Meet-up travels to a different restaurant the last Wednesday of every month. Upcoming event dates include: today, Oct. 24, and Nov. 28.

If you have a new technology to explore or are interested in the SmartStart program, contact MTEC SmartZone at (906) 487-7000 to set up an initial meeting.

About MTEC SmartZone

MTEC SmartZone is among a network of 15 SmartZone business incubators in Michigan, missioned by the State to create jobs in the technology sector. Since its inception in 2002, MTEC SmartZone has helped create over 300 technology jobs in the Upper Peninsula.

MTEC SmartZone focus is on commercializing ideas, patents and other opportunities surrounding corporate, university or private research institute efforts. Essential to new and emerging businesses, they also support entrepreneurs, technology-based start-ups and established enterprises, with facilities and resources to help them flourish.

Recently, MTEC SmartZone CEO Marilyn Clark announced her vision to create 750 new jobs in the next 10 years, starting with a goal of six jobs in 2012. Through the attraction of a large corporation and entrepreneurs growing business, MTEC SmartZone has exceeded their 2012 goal, creating 32 jobs since January.

Through MTEC SmartZone's SmartStart program, entrepreneurs and start-up companies increase their potential for success and growth, ultimately creating jobs.

For more information, visit, or call 487-7000.

Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by MTEC SmartZone. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.

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