Experts Discuss Reinventing your life on Cape Cod
The classic image of Cape Cod is of an oasis of sand, surf, and sun, where visitors come to escape the challenges and stresses of everyday life. But beneath this carefree, light-hearted resort surface lays a thriving community of entrepreneurs, business owners, and financial experts who make up the backbone of the Cape and Islands community, supporting that famous resort image.
Visitors and year-round residents alike are brought here because of the region’s natural and pristine environment. “What people are attracted to is the quality of life here. The natural beauty of the Cape is why people come, but there is also an attraction to work and live here, not just visit,” says Peter Karlson, Entrepreneur in Residence of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and founder of NeuEon.
Urban communities provide obvious benefits to entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses, but many of these same benefits are available on the Cape and Islands. “It’s not about where you are. It’s about what you do and what you bring to the marketplace,” explains Karlson.
Although the region’s tremendous natural ecosystem brings many people over the bridge to Cape Cod, there also exists a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. An extensive web of accountants, lawyers, technologists, and marketing specialists are here and willing to help startup companies. The big firms in major cities aren’t usually going to cut deals with start-ups, but such specialists here on the Cape will charge reasonable rates, knowing that a successful local business helps the local economy.
The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in establishing this entrepreneurial system. A network of likeminded institutions such as SCORE Cape Cod, Cape Cod Community College, Coastal Community Capital, Small Business Development Center, Massachusetts Office of Business Development, and Workforce Investment Board are part of the chamber’s Entrepreneurial Resource System (ERS), and all have the goal of launching new businesses in the area.
The ERS itself is designed to help high-potential startups that have the ability to grow and scale their ideas. Recruit services offered by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce are pro bono, so when someone with a high-potential startup says they need help, the chamber finds the right ERS partner for their needs free of charge.
One service that Karlson recommends to anybody looking to start a business on the Cape or Islands is the Successful Small Business Management Course put on by SCORE Cape Cod at Cape Cod Community College. This six-week course provides workshops and interactive discussions for burgeoning entrepreneurs led by experienced retired professionals. “Everyone without a business degree should take this, it’s essentially ‘Business 101,’” says Karlson.
Every new business needs startup money to get off the ground and this often comes in the forms of business loans from local financial institutions. Organizations like Coastal Community Capital, a division of the nonprofit Cape & Islands Community Development, Inc., have developed partnerships with private and public organizations so organization professionals can secure loans and offer business development strategies to startups and growing businesses. Of course, businesses must meet requirements to secure loans, and for those with unique challenges, Karlson recommends reaching out to angel investors, including family and friends.
Tourism dominates a large portion of the Cape and Islands economy, which makes opening a bed and breakfast a safe bet, but many more opportunities exist in this world-famous community. “That desire to connect and be a part of this place opens up opportunities to market all sorts of products derived from our natural resources—and to be able to generate income year-round. From world-class arts and crafts to fish, shellfish and artisan agricultural projects, opportunities abound and are only limited by our imagination and creativity,” says Executive Director at Community Development Partnership Jay Coburn.
The unique environment of Cape Cod and the Islands means that not every type of business will thrive here. Companies with large footprints requiring water, waste treatment, and a large-scale unskilled workforce are unsustainable. Smaller service-type companies, including technical service providers, software developers, and marketing services have a much higher chance of succeeding with the right leadership and a sound business model.
For four years, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce has run Entrepreneurs’ Weekend, a weekend-long business plan competition. Several local businesses have been launched as a result including Parting Gift in Hyannis and Brown to Green Solar in Harwichport. This year the chamber is proud to launch the inaugural Startup Weekend Cape Cod.
The goal of Startup Weekend Cape Cod is to make entrepreneurial ideas a reality in just 54 hours. The weekend begins with attendees pitching their ideas, the best of which are selected. Teams form around these ideas to come up with a business plan that is presented to a panel of judges composed of local entrepreneurs. Winning teams are awarded with prizes valued at thousands of dollars and are designed to help launch the business.
Startup Weekend Cape Cod focuses on technology, online, mobile, and digital products. The focus on these industries shows that there is a community of technically savvy individuals on the Cape and that there are people that want to start companies here. “It concentrates the talent here in a very short amount of time so the results are very potent,” says Karlson, who is also an organizer of the event.
The launch of a new startup creates a chain reaction in the local economy. Every new startup requires legal assistance, accounting services, and business consulting, which stimulate local companies who can provide those services. Once the company is up and running, skilled employees will be needed, and there is no shortage of educated and experienced individuals on the Cape and Islands. As the company continues to grow profits can be reinvested in the community in any number of ways.
Cape Cod and the Islands are home to a rare network where the essential needs to live, work, play, and create are all met. “There’s no end to the possibilities and opportunities for smart entrepreneurs on the Cape and Islands. There are new products and services invented every day, and there’s no good reason to not invent them here,” says Karlson.