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Alton Main Street is teaming up with Chris Miller's The Mission Center L3C
to continue our educational series for entrepreneurs.

Together we are committed to helping entrepreneurs, artists and existing business owners achieve the next level of success in Downtown Alton. 



APRIL 8, 15 & 22 2018

APRIL 29, MAY 6 & 13 2018


Alton Main Street and Chris Miller’s Mission Center are teaming up to provide a free workshop series focused on helping entrepreneurs develop, test and refine their business ideas, as well as provide a space for existing small businesses to explore opportunities for new products or services. The six-week bootcamp will be led by two serial entrepreneurs, Chris Miller and Alice Layton, both of whom also serve as professors of entrepreneurship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“Recognizing that startups – businesses less than 5 years old – account for nearly all net new job creation in the country,” said Chris Miller, “my team and I developed a fun and engaging process for training first-time entrepreneurs in the skills they need to successfully develop, test and launch new businesses.”

This 6-week series was originally developed for Washington University by Miller and his colleague, Alice Layton, a serial entrepreneur and educator who serves as Director of Education for The Mission Center. “When Chris and I were starting our first businesses a decade ago, this type of training simply didn’t exist,” says Layton, “and so the process we’ve developed takes all of the lessons we’ve learned the hard way over the years and essentially covers the things we wish we would have known ourselves.”

While the primary focus is on first-time entrepreneurs, also welcomed are existing small business owners interested in expanding into new products and services, as well as nonprofit leaders wanting to diversify the revenue streams they use to support their mission. “The collaboration between Alton Main Street and Chris Miller’s team is a natural extension of the advocacy and support we’ve been providing new and existing small businesses for decades,” says Sara McGibany, Executive Director of Alton Main Street. “With the success and energy surrounding the #OurAlton campaign and Small Business Revolution, this new addition to our work couldn’t come at a better time and we’re excited to partner with some of the region’s best and brightest entrepreneurial minds.”

The first 3 sessions of the series will be held from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at The Old Bakery Beer Company (400 Landmarks Boulevard). The topics for each session are as follows:

April 8th – “How to Generate or Validate New Ideas”

April 15th – “How to Find Customers for New Products or Services”

April 22nd – “How to Test New Business Models Quickly and Cheaply”

The second half of the series will be presented from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Post Commons (300 Alby Street).

April 29th – “How to Develop and Grow a Customer Base”

May 6th – “How to Create New Business Models and Revenue Streams”

May 13th – “How to Pitch to Customers and Investors”

Space is limited and while participants are encouraged to attend all 6 sessions, innovators of all types and ages are welcome to drop-in for any or all of these free trainings. Participants who do complete all 6 sessions, however, will be awarded free headshots and other incentives.

Alton Main Street and its partners are available to help entrepreneurs and small businesses navigate any obstacles they may face. “Our goal is to provide guidance, resources and information.” said Penny Schmidt who serves on the Economic Vitality Committee for Alton Main Street, “Providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with access to this high-quality expertise enables them, and Alton, to flourish.”

Alton is fertile ground for entrepreneurs to grow and thrive.  For many communities like Alton, fostering startups and small business growth has been the key to transitioning from a formerly manufacturing-based economy. The concept of fostering entrepreneurship to accelerate urban revitalization has been embraced by a wide spectrum of supporters, from artists and cultural organizations to business leaders and financial institutions.

The series is presented by Alton Main Street, with support from Simmons Hanly Conroy, TheBANK of Edwardsville, the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, Riverbender.com, The Telegraph, AdVantage News, and WBGZ Radio.


Watch our promotional video on the variety of ways
that Alton Main Street is supporting
our community's artisan business culture!

Watch the full-length video of our workshop
presented in Downtown Alton in 2016 on

“Developing the Creative Economy
Alton's Broadway Corridor”

On April 22nd, 2016 a workshop presented by Alton Main Street, Simmons Hanly Conroy, and Liberty Bank broadcasted that Downtown Alton, especially the Broadway corridor, is fertile ground for creative entrepreneurs to grow and thrive. The event was at Jacoby Arts Center, located at 627 E. Broadway in Alton, IL, in the heart of Alton’s emerging creative district.

For many communities similar to Alton, fostering small business growth has been the key to transitioning from a formerly manufacturing-based economy. Creative enterprises create jobs, improve quality of life, and are an important complement to community development activities. Such shops and services attract other young professionals and tourists to our area. Often, larger companies make decisions about where to locate their businesses based on the availability of a creative workforce, as well as the quality of life that a town rich in the arts offers to its employees. The Downtown Alton district has long been a hub for many classic creative enterprises, such as visual arts and media, but attendees of the workshop were encouraged to broaden their horizons on what fields are considered creative, to include industries such as: architecture, crafts, culinary, cultural, design, fashion, film, publishing, software development and technology.

Kicking off the workshop from 3:00-5:00 p.m., Pam Schallhorn, Community Economic Development Educator from University of Illinois Extension, gave a presentation called “Developing A Creative Economy”. Attendees learned how residents, business and property owners, civic organizations, and city officials can create an environment where these types of businesses will choose to open their doors.

From 5:00-6:00 p.m., the audience enjoyed a live "Shark Tank" style session, where creative entrepreneurs delivered 2-minute pitches on the current state of their business, project, or idea and received rapid-fire feedback from a panel of experts. The workshop included appetizers from many local food purveyors.

Finally, from 6:00-8:00 p.m., a “Creative Entrepreneur Cocktail Expo” was held in the main gallery, which was free and open to the public. During the party, creatives browsed informational tables from many organizations, businesses and individuals who offered support to fledgling creative entrepreneurs. They were also able to learn about available real estate, find opportunities to sell their wares, and land contract employment. The event was a supportive atmosphere to network with successful business mentors, financial lenders and media.

“At the event, a jewelry maker will find outlets to consign her work, someone considering an endeavor in the culinary arts can learn about markets for his products, and local performance artists will receive contact info for Downtown venues who are looking to hire their services,” said Sara McGibany, Executive Director of Alton Main Street, “The goal is to provide resources and information. I’ve been involved with many circumstances where a creative entrepreneur is great at their trade, but just needed a little support on their weaker spots in regards to business. Sometimes giving a small business owner advice on where to turn for marketing, financial or real estate help enables them to really flourish.”

The Alton Main Street organization and its partners are available to help small entrepreneurs navigate any obstacles they face in order to take their business to the next level. Developers attended the workshop to learn about investment opportunities in Downtown Alton’s historic district and become acquainted with Alton’s growing creative culture. 

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