Finding the resources to start a business is one of the first tasks new entrepreneurs will always need to navigate, and a new tool from the Greater Des Moines Partnership is aiming to provide an “easier on-ramp” to the existing pathways and resources.

The Resource Compass is an online platform of entrepreneurial resources available from nonprofits or entrepreneurial support organizations in Central Iowa as well as statewide.
Entrepreneurs can filter their search based on the stage of their company or what type of service or need they’re looking to address.

As part of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, the Partnership’s Startup Community Builder Diana Wright and the other Central Iowa cohort members have mapped the entrepreneurial resources in the region. She said the new Resource Compass is meant to present the same information in a more “user-friendly” way.

“This is ideally a way they can find an online directory of resources, and start the process then and there, and then ideally, get connected to someone in our community that can really help support them,” Wright said. “Face-to-face [interaction] is really important to make someone feel like they belong in a community, but this is a nice way that if you’re not yet connected to myself, and all these other amazing players and partners, you have a way to find it.”

A partnership at the state level helped make the idea happen, Wright said. The Iowa Economic Development Authority has a relationship with Startup Space, a provider of online platforms for entrepreneurial communities, and about a year ago the agency was trying to learn how regions across the state could use Startup Space’s services. The Partnership, including Wright and Meg Schneider, senior vice president of business resources and community development, took the lead on identifying uses for the Central Iowa region.

Startup Space hosts the Resource Compass and has helped the Partnership make its existing business counseling services more accessible with an online form businesses can use to share initial information and connect to support.

Wright said the Partnership considered how the Resource Compass could be inclusive to underrepresented entrepreneurs as the tool was designed.

“We were very aware of making sure of how do we level the playing field so that if you don’t know someone because they’re just really not in your network, you can still find access to resources through an online platform,” she said.

The Partnership will continue to add resources to the Resource Compass tool that fall under the category of nonprofit or entrepreneur support organization. Wright said for-profit businesses looking to connect with small businesses can refer to the Partnership’s membership chamber directory.