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What’s Behind the Door? A Sneak Peek into the Entrepreneur District

Nov 1, 2023

Entrepreneurs need space.

The space to work…the space to be creative…the space to celebrate their successes (and learn from their failures) …and most importantly, the space to create, learn, and grow with others. Dakota Business Lending’s Entrepreneur District is now offering entrepreneurs that space. We sat down with Michaela Schell, the Head of District, to learn more about what this space is and how it will transform entrepreneurs.

Q. What is the Entrepreneur District? 

Its mission is to allow entrepreneurs to work for themselves, but not by themselves. We’ve done this by creating a transformative space where they can work independently and also get the collaboration they crave.

Q. What sparked the idea to create something like this? 

After building a new headquarter office in 2018, we have found ourselves with more office space than we originally needed. We asked ourselves, “How can we use this space to fulfill our mission of supporting small businesses?” There are a significant number of businesses and solopreneurs who lack the space they need to work and grow, so we decided to use our office to meet that need.

Q. Who is the Entrepreneur District for? 

What I love about the Entrepreneur District is the open mentality we have for who can be a great fit here. You have to be an entrepreneur currently in business who needs office space, but the rest is very open. We are mostly looking for entrepreneurs who are eager, excited, and have a collaborative spirit. That’s what will make this space successful.

Q. How is this different from a coworking space or leadership group? 

The Entrepreneur District is intentionally designed to facilitate collaboration and growth. Residents will not only have a space to work alongside other business owners, but will have the opportunity to meet monthly to bring problems, opportunities, and questions to the table with others who know exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes. We will be aligning each Resident with another small business owner in the community to serve as a mentor, and also have individual quarterly meetings to help them stay tuned with their goals.

Q. There are several benefits available for Residents…can you tell us more about them? 

Along with office space and mentorship opportunities, Residents will have access to several resources to help them grow. They will be able to attend different trainings and education programs, both at Dakota Business Lending and in the community, with scholarship opportunities available.

Since office space at the Entrepreneur District is free of charge, we are asking that the entrepreneurs pay that forward by volunteering their time and talent to other local organizations. This allows entrepreneurs to not only grow their network and skills with new clients, but also give back to their community.

Lastly, given that we are a lending organization, entrepreneurs will also have access to small loan amounts if needed.

Q. How long can Residents be a part of the Entrepreneur District?

We know that each entrepreneurs’ journey is unique, so we do not have a specific time limit. At the end of each year, we will sit down with each Resident to assess where they are and find out if staying or leaving the District is the best fit for them and their goals. Both are great options.

Q. What do you hope Residents can accomplish at the Entrepreneur District?

The biggest thing we would love to see entrepreneurs gain is a sense of confidence in themselves and their business. We also want them to leave with a bigger, deeper network than they arrived. One of our goals is that the Residents truly become supporters of each other so they can call on one other with questions or challenges, even after their time at the District is over.

Q. How does a business owner become a Resident at the Entrepreneur District?

Applications to be one of ten Entrepreneurs in Residence in 2024 will open in November 2023, and we want applicants to be open and honest in them. We aren’t looking for the “perfect” entrepreneur. The value comes from those who know their strengths (and weaknesses) so we can fill this space with entrepreneurs who complement each other. All industries, business types, and stages of business are welcome.

Q. Why the door logo?

Our logo first and foremost represents the physical space that the Entrepreneur District offers. However, it is also a door that opens our Residents up to new people, new connections, new perspectives, and new opportunities they maybe wouldn’t have before. We’re excited for people to walk through this door and join us!

For more information or questions about the Entrepreneur District, visit our webpage or contact Michaela