Emerging Prairie hosted the first-ever Entrepreneur Day at the State Capitol (EDSC) on January 21, 2019, in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Department of Commerce. The vision for the event was to have a day where doers and thinkers from across the state could travel to Bismarck, ND to meet with state representatives to discuss ways the state could partner with the private industry to create jobs and wealth.
- 82 people attended Entrepreneur Day at the State Capitol
- 55% of attendees had never visited the state capitol before
- 90% of attendees talk with their state legislators
- 19 North Dakota cities were represented
In order to make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs to get to Bismarck for Entrepreneur Day at the State Capitol, transportation, meals and lodging were provided for attendees. Funding to cover the cost for attendees was received through the Kauffman Foundation’s “Zero Barriers” grant.
After being awarded the grant, a small team of like-minded individuals from across the state was assembled to assist with recruiting attendees. Most of these individuals had some experience in community organizing or economic development. In order to organize the recruiting efforts, the state was split into four quadrants and each community organizer from the planning committee was assigned a territory based upon the area/city where they work.
In addition to having quadrant captains recruit from their local networks, the Small Business Administration’s database was also utilized to identify and invite small businesses owned by women and Native Americans.
At the Capitol
Entrepreneur Day at the State Capitol involved an evening social at the North Dakota Governor’s Residence (January 20, 2019) along with a day in session at the state capitol (January 21, 2019). The social provided an opportunity for attendees to socialize with each other, Governor Burgum, the governor’s staff and the staffs of officials from the ND Department of Commerce and the Bank of North Dakota. After the social, several attendees met for another informal gathering at a local bar and grill located in downtown Bismarck.
The following morning, EDSC attendees were invited to learn about the best way to communicate with their legislators during an “orientation session” with a lobbyist. Once at the state capitol, entrepreneurs met with representatives from their legislative districts. While Emerging Prairie provided the entrepreneurs with the contact information for the legislators, the meetings were set up by the entrepreneurs themselves.
During the noon hour, more than 150 entrepreneurs and legislators gathered for a lunch where five prominent entrepreneurs gave short talks about their businesses and the state programs and/or resources they utilized when first starting out.
The entrepreneurs spent the remainder of the day sitting with their representatives on the house and senate floors during the daily session, going on tours of the capitol building and attending committee hearings on bills.
After the event, EDSC attendees shared their positive experiences. One told his friends how his local representative let him cast votes on the house floor. Another talked about how she was so inspired that she decided to start a weekly meetup of entrepreneurs in her city.
A post-event survey was sent out to attendees and it confirmed the success of the event. Out of 40 responses, 70% gave the event a 10/10 rating, and more than 70% said they would be likely to engage in advocacy efforts for issues important to entrepreneurship in the future.
Entrepreneur Day at the State Capitol was an innovative solution to the communications gap that sometimes exists between legislators and innovators. It proved that there is substantial interest in events such as these that seek to remove barriers and make it easier for entrepreneurs to learn more about the policymaking process.
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