Perhaps one of the hardest things about being an inventor, innovator, or startup owner in Charlotte is finding the support you need to gain leverage and jumpstart your growth. Let’s face it; almost every industry right now is competitive, and having minimal resources—like limited funds and a non-existent network—puts you at a severe disadvantage against other inventors and innovators in your niche. Thankfully, there are plenty of local resources and digital platforms that can help entrepreneurs find momentum through collaboration. From online groups to creator-catered co-working spaces, you’ll find that Charlotte, NC has plenty of incredible inventor resources to give you a much-needed boost. DIGITAL DATABASES UIA of the United States of America The United Inventors Association (UIA) of the United States of America website is a staple in every U.S.-based inventor’s resource page. It’s a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to provide dedicated resources for inventors and innovators in the U.S. On their website, you’ll find content pertaining to tradeshows and events, inventor news, patent and license resources, opportunities, and even inspirational stories. Their content is publicly accessible, but they do offer additional perks and resources for members. Most importantly, they encourage honest, ethical business practices amongst assigned providers in the industry. Inventors Digest Dedicated to “revitalizing American innovation,” the Inventors Digest is an online platform that publishes articles, opinions, stories, and resources catered specifically towards independent and professional innovators. For the past 32 years, they’ve been fostering the “spirit and practice of innovation” by posting content that educates, informs, and inspires inventors all across the U.S. Their articles fall under the following categories: American Inventors Bright Ideas Eye on Washington Inventing 101 Inventiveness Lander Zone Marketing Tips Online Only Time Tested As the leading publication—both print and digital—in the inventor/innovator niche, Inventors Digest is a great source for cutting-edge information, inspirational stories, and location-specific opportunities. They also have a compilation of U.S-based inventor resources that they regularly update. Indeed Indeed markets itself as the #1 job site in the world, boasting over 250 million unique monthly visitors and about 10 jobs added per second. While not exclusively for Charlotte-based inventors or innovators, it does have enough filters for you to search for potential inventor jobs or innovator opportunities in Charlotte. The majority of the results may not necessarily be focused on inventing, but you could get lucky! It’s worth checking out every now and then, as access to browse and filter is completely free. Knight Foundation (Charlotte Chapter) The Knight Foundation was originally formed to “promote excellence in journalism” and foster the success of communities through information and engagement. Founded by newspaper publishers –and brothers—John S. and James L. Knight, it is now a national foundation that invests in journalism, the arts, communities, and technology. The Knight Foundation, Charlotte Chapter, has committed more than $58 million to Charlotte since 2008. Their investments include the Local Initiative Support Corporation for community development and the Project L.I.F.T. launch for civic tech and digital skill-building. Their Charlotte program focuses on (1) ensuring Historic West End residents are connected and capable of driving community growth, and (2) supporting the creation of community spaces and creation hubs that foster interaction and networking amongst local innovators/entrepreneurs/creators. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website offers a slew of resources for inventors, entrepreneurs, innovators, and business owners. These range from relevant, informative articles to legal guidelines and contracting assistance. Other content includes step-by-step guides to starting—and registering—small businesses and general paperwork (i.e., forms, licenses, certificates) that potential business owners need to secure. ENTREPRENEURIAL SUPPORT GROUPS NC IDEA NC IDEA is one of the most important resources for entrepreneurs and inventors in North Carolina. It’s a private foundation driven to maximizing the economic potential of North Carolina by supporting local startups, businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors that show potential for massive growth. It does this by offering a “strategic combination” of competitive grants and specialized programs geared towards encouraging business development and expansion. These programs include: NC IDEA LABS – an intensive program for idea development or product validation NC IDEA MICRO – a small, project-based grant awarded to young companies who need help validating or realizing their ideas NC IDEA SEED – critical funding offered to deserving startups to speed up their scaling process NC IDEA SOAR – a program specifically catered to help female founders address the common issues they face through content and programming NC IDEA LEAD – personalized leadership training for executives, founders, and leaders of high-potential, high-growth organizations Charlotte Capital For the last fifteen years, Charlotte Capital has provided middle-market startups and emerging companies with professional guidance and proven strategies for exponential growth. It’s a company that helps walk other companies through all stages of development to achieve eventual, guaranteed success. They believe that “today’s entrepreneurs” become “tomorrow’s business leaders,” and they’re dedicated to helping that transformation take place by (1) strengthening the business, (2) fostering business growth, and (3) maximizing shareholder value. For fresh startups and new business owners, Charlotte Capital offers a number of dedicated services to suit most any situation. These include: Strategic Guidance Financial Management Financial Restructuring Business Development Corporate Development Operational & Organizational Advisement Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) Advisement Capital Raising … and more. Packard Place Packard Place is a non-profit organization and social entrepreneurship project whose mission is to “always put Charlotte first.” It’s an online and in-person community that encourages entrepreneurial growth and development through a number of programs, partnerships, events, and digital content. Since 2010, they have helped launch dozens—if not hundreds—of local communities that are now considered pillars of Charlotte’s growing community. Their co-working space offers office suites, private offices, community co-working areas, and even virtual membership for access to an uptown mailing address. Packard Place also hosts community-catered events for innovators and entrepreneurs, monthly Public House networking, a Fellowship Program for new business founders, training workshops, and other special membership exclusives. They also have a regular newsletter for updates on entrepreneurial networking events and local news. 1 Million Cups (Charlotte) In 2012, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation developed 1 Million Cups—a free program based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover their best, most brilliant solutions when engaged with their local community over a cup (or two) of coffee. This program was originally designed to “educate, engage, and inspire” entrepreneurs all over the U.S. through volunteer programs and community support. Now in its 8th year, 1 Million Cups serves over 160 communities—staying true to Mr. Kauffman’s belief that anyone with a big idea has the fundamental right to bring it to life. The Charlotte chapter of 1 Million Cups helps Charlotte-based entrepreneurs find the leverage they need to grow their businesses through tools and resources. It also provides a safe, supportive work environment for entrepreneurs to meet, network, and make connections on the 1st Wednesday of every month. The Entrepreneur Hub of Charlotte For entrepreneurs, small business owners, work-from-home marketers, independent innovators, and even curious Charlotte locals interested in starting a business the right way, the Entrepreneur Hub of Charlotte is a Meetup group worth checking out. Catered towards those looking to connect with authentic business owners, grow referral lists, or deepen existing client relationships, this hub organizes regular live events to foster growth through leveraging local association. Dedicated to “building businesses with authenticity,” the members of this Meetup group learn from each other, share referrals, and generally contribute to building a safe, welcoming community for inventors, innovators, and business owners. Joining this hub gives you access to: Unique networking events and pitching opportunities Referral networking nights Roundtable mastermind networking for idea sharing Fun social networking events “Lunch and Learn” workshops where you can learn from others experiences or contribute your own expertise Empowering Entrepreneurs Over the past four years, Empowering Entrepreneurs has become a solid community of roughly 30 small business owners, innovators, and entrepreneurs dedicated to supporting each other’s growth and development. They meet every first and third Thursday of the month to touch base with like-minded—and like-hearted—individuals to keep themselves accountable and on-track. Empowering Entrepreneurs considers themselves a family and collective of “beautiful souls serving, giving, supporting, referring,” and mentoring each other, effectively creating life-long relationships and ensuring consistent community growth. Members can expect dedicated assistance for both personal and professional growth through member-driven education and training. They put a lot of emphasis on fostering meaningful relationships and giving back to the community. National Association of Women Business Owners, Charlotte Chapter (NAWBO) The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is an organization created exclusively by women entrepreneurs to help their fellow women entrepreneurs achieve business growth and entrepreneurial success. The Charlotte, NC chapter is dedicated to developing local, woman-owned companies by helping their founders find the momentum and leverage they need for exponential growth. They do this by offering educational resources, network connections, and financial opportunities. The organizations’ programs, speaker events, corporate partnerships, advocacies, and entrepreneur workshops are all specifically designed with women movers, shakers, and innovators in mind. They have a Charlotte Mastermind Group, and annual Awards Gala, and even a news blog to keep members up-to-date. Since 1975, NAWBO has supported, served, and acted as the front line for more than 11 million women-owned businesses nationwide. Over time, they have built a membership lineup of successful, independent, and business-savvy women entrepreneurs known for their strength, diversity, and professional success. INVENTOR SUPPORT GROUPS Inventors Network of the Carolinas The Inventors Network of the Carolinas (INotC) is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit group that seeks to empower inventors through online education, support, and networking opportunities. By connecting inventors to the resources they need to guide and inspire the invention process, INotC hopes to create successful local commercial ventures, consequently contributing to and improving the local economy. A proud member of the United Inventors Association, the Inventors Network of the North Carolinas also seeks to protect inventors and innovators by providing current education and up-to-date information regarding practical and legal aspects of inventing—like how to protect ideas or how much patents costs. Members can interact, engage, and exchange resources with other experienced inventors through INotC’s monthly sponsored events. These dynamic networking opportunities offer inexperienced inventors and innovators a chance at incredible growth through community collaboration and local support. If you have questions regarding your own specific situation—such as whether your idea is patentable or how viable your startup idea actually is—they also host interactive speaking events that present the perfect opportunity to get professional answers. INotC’s other goals include (1) educating inventors on the financially successful idea-invention-product cycle, (2) informing them regarding industry best practices, (3) equipping them with the knowledge they need to avoid scams and earn fair compensation for their services, and (4) encouraging successful inventors to give back to the INotC group through community coaching and/or mentoring. STARTUP HELP/SUPPORT Charlotte Business Resources Charlotte Business Resources—or CBRbiz—is one of the best one-stop digital stops for Charlotte-based businesses. It covers practically everything a fresh startup owner needs to successfully—and legally—grow their business. With a considerable network of over 25 resource partners, CBRbiz strives to provide educational, mentoring, and networking services for resident innovators entrepreneurs. CBRbiz was founded and is currently funded by the City of Charlotte in an effort to nurture and improve the local economy through a flourishing small business ecosystem. It currently works with a wide range of nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, community groups, and government agencies to develop resource-rich content specifically to help small businesses thrive. Examples of these resources include: Consolidated information regarding starting, growing, and financing a business Digital guides regarding patent applications, certifications, business registration, and the like Peer-written and expert-reviewed blog posts Podcasts with local business owners and startup successes Event calendars Social media contests Networking events Startup Grind Startup Grind is, to date, the world’s largest community of founders, innovators, inventors, creators, and startup owners. It strives to create strength in diversity by connecting like-minded movers and shakers together in a safe, nurturing space that encourages them to teach, build, help, and grow together. They achieve this through daily local events, flagship conferences, startup programs, online media, and global partnerships. They currently have over 3.5 million members worldwide. The Charlotte Chapter of Startup Grind was launched in 2014 and is currently 674 members strong. They’ve since hosted numerous successful events featuring entrepreneurs and business owners like Walt Frye, Tariq Bokhari, and Jeffrey Gitomer. PATENTING HELP/EDUCATION USPTO Inventor & Entrepreneur Resources The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an official U.S. federal agency that grants patents and registers trademarks for U.S.-based inventors. It monitors and tracks all inventions and intellectual properties with the intent of properly safeguarding the legal inventor’s rights and ownership. The Office of Innovation Development is a branch under the USPTO that provides useful, need-to-know information for independent inventors and entrepreneurs. They have a number of helpful online resources that cover important topics such as the difference between patents and trademarks, the different types of patents you can apply for, and what you need to know to protect your invention and eventually earn from it. The USPTO also offers legal guidance and stipulations regarding intellectual property (IP) policy, protection, and enforcement. Helpful Links: Blog Article: How Much Does a Trademark Cost? Blog Article: How to do a Trademark Search: 3 Easy Steps Conclusion There you have it, everyone! A multitude of all the different resources available to inventors and entrepreneurs as listed above and below. DIGITAL DATABASES UIA of the United States of America Inventors Digest Indeed Knight Foundation (Charlotte Chapter) U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) ENTREPRENEURIAL SUPPORT GROUPS NC IDEA Charlotte Capital Packard Place 1 Million Cups (Charlotte) The Entrepreneur Hub of Charlotte Empowering Entrepreneurs National Association of Women Business Owners, Charlotte Chapter (NAWBO) INVENTOR SUPPORT GROUPS Inventors Network of the Carolinas STARTUP HELP/SUPPORT Charlotte Business Resources Startup Grind PATENTING HELP/EDUCATION USPTO Inventor & Entrepreneur Resources In the meantime, what other resources would you recommend to your fellow entrepreneurs and inventors in Charlotte? Please let us know in the comments below!