The key to innovation? Partnerships between established businesses and entrepreneurs

  • Photo courtesy of Innovation DuPageA sponsor wall at Innovational DuPage's office in Glen Ellyn.

    Photo courtesy of Innovation DuPageA sponsor wall at Innovational DuPage's office in Glen Ellyn.

  • Antony Nettleton

    Antony Nettleton

  • Photo courtesy of Innovation DuPage

    Photo courtesy of Innovation DuPage

  • Photo courtesy of Innovation DuPage

    Photo courtesy of Innovation DuPage

By Antony Nettleton
Posted11/9/2021 2:00 AM

I'm always impressed by the zeal, creativity and drive of entrepreneurs. These individuals are willing to put all their chips on the table to pursue a business idea or a passion.

However, while entrepreneurs may have great business ideas and be excellent at certain facets of running a business, it's near impossible to find an entrepreneur who has mastery over every skill that's needed to turn a business into an efficient and profitable enterprise -- from finances to operations to human resources to marketing.


Entrepreneurs can therefore benefit greatly from guidance from seasoned professionals with specialized expertise across business disciplines. Too often, however, they struggle to find these trusted counselors.

Even entrepreneurs with robust business networks will be hard pressed to find specialists across all the functions they need to address.

As a result, entrepreneurs end up handling everything themselves, which is an inefficient use of their time that can result in missed business opportunities.

Formalized partnerships between business incubators, established businesses and entrepreneurs can overcome these challenges. In our community, Innovation DuPage is leading this charge. Its mission is to empower entrepreneurs by partnering with local businesses, educational and governmental organizations to offer collaboration, resource sharing and strategic development.

And though we are a 1,000-plus person firm providing technology-enabled professional services globally, we have deep roots in DuPage County and are proud to partner with Innovation DuPage to support the area's entrepreneurs.

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Investing in community

When we first started talking with the Innovation DuPage team, we immediately recognized how much synergy existed between their mission and our own values. We have over 300 people working in DuPage County and therefore see firsthand the need for accessible resources and support for local business owners.

We also relate to entrepreneurs. After all, many of them are our clients, and the leaders of our organization are entrepreneurs at heart. Putting our business knowledge and breadth of expertise to work supporting local entrepreneurs is therefore a no-brainer.

Another component of Innovation DuPage's mission that aligned with our own strategy is a focus on supporting diversity in DuPage County. Driving diversity, equity and inclusion is a core priority for Sikich -- within our firm, with our clients and within our communities.

Innovation DuPage specializes in supporting BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and female entrepreneurs. More than 34% of businesses served by Innovation DuPage since its inception are minority-owned and more than 40% are female-owned.


Partnering with owners

With similar goals, we quickly understood the value Innovation DuPage would bring to our community and decided to partner with the organization to help the group achieve its mission.

As a partner, we work alongside local colleges, research firms, chambers of commerce and more to supply local entrepreneurs with the resources and insights they need to succeed.

Our first order of business is offering Innovation DuPage members financial guidance through the Owner-2-CEO program. This 12-week curriculum offers sales, finance, marketing and human resources education to business owners, along with individual mentorship.

My colleague, Allan Lyon, will teach a course on understanding and using financial information to spur growth. Members will learn how to manage day-to-day business transactions and use company financial data as a tool to drive business success.

In addition to the Owner-2-CEO program, we're also participating in one-on-one consulting sessions. This allows us to pair Sikich experts with local business owners.

Our experts will work directly with these business owners to address their challenges. For example, my colleague Young Kim is offering accounting guidance to a local business owner who doesn't have accounting experience.

Looking ahead, we're excited to further align with Innovation DuPage and supporting many local entrepreneurs with mentorship and resources. At Sikich, we have expertise and knowledge across business functions -- from accounting and finance to human resources to marketing and communications.

It's part of our ethos to share this knowledge and give back to our communities, and Innovation DuPage offers a unique opportunity to support local businesses from the ground up.

As we continue this partnership, we look forward to supporting the economic development of DuPage County and offering our guidance to champion the success of local businesses.

Innovation DuPage's model is one that can and should be replicated across the country to drive entrepreneurship and kick-start our economic engine.

We're proud to be a part of this valuable and innovative effort.

• Antony Nettleton is partner at Sikich.

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