10-week ‘LaunchIt’ program aimed at helping entrepreneurs now enrolling applicants

FLINT, Michigan -- Flint has long been known for the entrepreneurial spirit of its residents, with resources like Oak Business Center, the Ferris Wheel, 100K Ideas, and more nurturing the ecosystem here.

In the fall of 2020, Mary Auge and her coaching partner Sebastian Alvim introduced a program to help intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs move their business ideas from concept to implementation in Flint. After a successful first term, the pair expect to have even more success in 2021.

LaunchIt is a 10-week intensive founded at the University of Louisville’s College of Business. The program, which affords students an opportunity to take steps toward launching their businesses, has graduated more than 600 entrepreneurs across the country. Through a partnership with XLerate Health and LaunchIt, the LaunchIt program is now local. Beginning February 18, Flint’s future moguls will have an opportunity to work with Auge, Alvim, and dozens of other mentors with a wide range of business experience.

Flint coach Sebastian Alvim, a native of Portugal, is a graduate of the University of Lisbon. In 2017, Alvim joined the founding team of MyNurse—a home healthcare marketplace startup company. He has served as an advisor for more than 40 start-up companies and is the current Program Director for XLerateHealth in Flint. Alvim is also a 2017 graduate of the LaunchIt program and has firsthand experience in how the program can help advance a business.

“I was able to validate the startup’s full commercial potential and learned how to create a customer-centric company,” he said. “I was also able to connect to a broader community of entrepreneurs (probably the most helpful).”

Alvim also highlights lessons on legal structure, sources of capital, financial planning, and value proposition for customers as benefits of the program.

Flint coach Mary Auge is a graduate of Mott Community College and Northeastern University. Prior to her return to Flint, she served as a laboratory technician for The Center of Neurological Diseases at Harvard Institute of Medicine. Auge has more than 20 years of experience in life science and health innovations. As Director of Business Development for XLerate Health, Auge played an integral role in developing the partnership that brought LaunchIt to Flint.

Auge organized, marketed, and selected participants for the fall 2020 LaunchIt cohort. She looks forward to helping more entrepreneurs explore their business ideas in the spring 2021 class. Auge sees the program’s mentorship network as one of its highest benefits. “Having the one-on-one coaching provides valuable information to overcome a challenge or begin to pivot [a] company,” she said.

One of the program’s first graduates, James Stallworth, has firsthand experiences with the mentorship opportunity. Last fall Stallworth, co-founder of FlintSoup, incubated a business idea for a pet food supply for reptiles during the 10-week program. Guidance from his coaches in Flint gave Stallworth an opportunity to test his business model. When he discovered his original model was not viable, Auge and Alvim provided guidance to help Stallworth pivot toward a more feasible plan. Stallworth says having local support helps, “because the community resources they suggest are readily accessible. The [coaches] recommend interviewees for customer discovery live within the area of service and offer real-time suggestions on breaking into new markets in the region.”

As one of the first graduates of Flint’s LaunchIt program, Stallworth speaks highly of his experience. “I recommend LaunchIt to entrepreneurs who have tested their business model among friends and family and are ready to take a regional/global look at how business is done beyond neighborhood boundaries,” he said.

More information on XLerate Health’s programs including LaunchIt can be found on their website. Registration for the LaunchIt program can be found online.

XLerate Health is offering up to eight scholarships to Flint residents for enrollment in the LaunchIt program. Contact Program Director Sebastian Alvim at [email protected] for scholarship information and applications.

Read more articles by Qiana Towns.

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