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Say Goodbye to Summer >> iSPI Highlight Reel

Howdy partners! We hope you've enjoyed these last sips of summer and have made the most of the opportunity to get outside and experience all that the land of Lincoln has to offer. We've been extra busy serving the iSPI community, making plans, and making connections. So much has happened since our last update, we could hardly wait to connect with you.

We went to the ... We also ... We promised a highlight reel from our State Fair festivities and we really like to deliver on our promises. We think you're in for a super-sweet-end-of-summer-treat here, but feel free to grab a snack and settle in for some real iSPI news.

On August 18, the Illinois Innovation Network [IIN] recognized advances in computing and data; food and agriculture; environment and water; health and wellness; as well as an open student category with the presentation of the Illinois Innovation Awards.
“These innovators are an example of one of the things I love most about our state: We have brilliant people coming up with solutions to some of the world’s most difficult challenges,” said Bruce Sommer, director of economic development and innovation at the University of Illinois Springfield, whose office facilitated the awards program.

“I am encouraged by the diversity of our recipients and the incredible work that they are doing.”
IIN Innovation Award recipients include ...
  • Environment & Water Category: Kenneth B. Anderson is director of the Advanced Coal and Energy Research Center and professor of geochemistry at SIUC.
  • Food & Agriculture Category: Girish Chowdhary is director of the Distributed Autonomous Systems Laboratory and Donald Biggar Willet Faculty Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and co-founder and chief technology officer of EarthSense.
  • Health & Wellness Category: Aadeel Akhtar is founder of PSYONIC, which is based at the EnterpriseWorks incubator in the UIUC Research Park. 
  • Health & Wellness Category: Elizabeth Gaillard, a professor of chemistry and biological sciences at Northern Illinois University (NIU), studies diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading causes of blindness in the United States and around the world. 
  • Teams (Other Category): SHIELD - Target, Test, and Tell team is a community of scholars with a science-based approach that developed a saliva-based COVID-19 test and mobile application to safely reopen the UIUC campus in fall 2020.
  • Student Category: Alex Kosyakov of UIUC is the founder of Natrion, a battery research, and development startup. 
  • Student Category: Nelson Fernades is the founder and project manager of SIUC’s Green Roof Project. 

We did it! We finished our inaugural Summer Fellowship Program in collaboration with The Community Foundation for the Land of LincolnThe University of Illinois Springfield College of Business and ManagementiVENTURED, and Innovate Springfield.

The program aimed to create new local businesses, expand existing local businesses, and attract homegrown talent back to the area. We literally pulled all the stops to make this the most valuable, applicable, and fun experiential learning opportunity around. High-energy mention to our hosts and fellows for committing their time and brainpower to the program.

S/O to the Hosts & Fellows:

We asked our hosts and fellows what perceived value they received from engaging in the Summer Fellowship Program because we love feedback.

Check out what a few of them said about the program ...
  • "The Summer Fellowship Program was a great way for a college student to get true experiences with a local business. I learned a lot from the work I did, and would recommend it to the next CEO class." - Fellow
  • "I'm continuously in awe of the programming that iSPI and their community partners consistently create. It really is a special network that brings new opportunities to current and future Springfield businesses who all need support in becoming a fabric of the Springfield economic growth. Thank you to Sarah and the amazing iSPI team for everything they do for hellowater." - Rusty Jones, Hellowater
  • "The Summer Fellowship Program provided my business with a fantastic, motivated intern. He dove headfirst into the projects I provided and solved a couple of business problems that I just didn’t have time to focus on. I’m so proud and honored to be a part of the vision these programs provide for entrepreneurs." - Barnabas Helmy, Smashtoast

Now is the time to submit an application for the Back to Business (B2B) grant program.  This program offers small businesses access to funds to help offset losses due to COVID-19, bring back workers, and continue to rebuild from the pandemic fallout.
Two main eligibility requirements for the B2B Grant Program include that the business must have been in operation during or before December 2019, and must have experienced a loss in revenue of at least $5,000 in 2020 due to economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information and the application for B2B can be found on the DCEO website here.

The online application portal allows for documents to be easily scanned and uploaded for processing. The required documentation includes the following:

  • Business owner ID (ITIN business owners eligible);
  • Business’s 2019 and 2020 Federal tax returns;
  • Two (2) business bank statements – one from the period April through December 2020, and the most recent statement.
Innovate Springfield and other Community Navigators are hosting one-on-one appointments for office hours to support individuals in applying for the grant and uploading their documents on the second floor of the Lincoln Library in the Nancy Huntley Computer Lab on the following dates/times:
  • Friday, September 3 between 10 AM - 12 PM
  • Tuesday, September 7 between 10 AM - 12 PM and 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Wednesday, September 8 between 10 AM - 12 PM and 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Friday, September 10 between 10 AM - 12 PM
  • Monday, September 13 between 10 AM - 12 PM and 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Wednesday, September 15 between 10 AM - 12 PM and 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Friday, September 17 between 10 AM - 12 PM
Individuals seeking assistance can also contact Innovate Springfield staff directly at

Click HERE to see upcoming learning opportunities
Click HERE to see community updates 
Click HERE to see partner events


Welcome to #iSPILyfe, where we're learning every day and growing every day and we know it. Join us!

Brand Strategy Session: What Does Your Brand Say About Your Business?

Innovate Springfield in collaboration with Rachel Hughes, Founder of Johnny and June Boutique // Brand Strategy Session: What Does Your Brand Say About Your Business?

Date: Thursday, September 30, 2021
Time: 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Zoom

Your brand is your business's personality and is communicating all kinds of data points with your customer. So what does your brand say about your business and the value that you create? What story does it tell? What story do you want it to tell, and how can you harness the power of your brand to increase your reach, your impact, and attract your ideal customer?

Whether you're just starting out, or you've been in business for a while, evaluating your brand and brand strategy to ensure alignment with your core values, mission, vision, goals, and customer profile should be part of your annual routine so don't miss this session. See you there!

Register Here.
Self-Care for Starters

Prioritizing the health and wellness of those that we serve has always been important to us here at iSPI. The pandemic has changed the way that we all live and work, and we're excited to introduce Self-Care for Starters to our regular program offering.

All are welcome to join us for gentle Yoga for Starters on the first Tuesday of each month, and Mindfulness Meditation for Starters on the third Tuesday of each month with Innovate Springfield member Amy Denney, founder of Shine Light Therapy.

Yoga for Starters
Date: First Tuesday of each month
Time: 4:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Mindfulness Meditation for Starters
Date: Third Tuesday of each month
Time: 4:30 PM - 5:00 PM

We hope that you'll make Self-Care for Starters part of your
regular work routine with us!
iSPI Members >> Don't Forget!
We host twice-monthly appointments for office hours with our expert advisors. 
If you're feeling stuck and want some extra support:
We are here for you!


At Innovate Springfield community is what it’s all about! It’s the most collaborative, supportive, and authentic environment we’ve ever worked in. The real magic is in the people who call iSPI their work-home and the passion and value that they bring to our community.

Congratulations to Innovate Springfield member Brian Frieze on the recent sale of his business, Sangamon Reclaimed, and transition of ownership to the Harwood Family. We're taking this moment to reflect back on the Sangamon Reclaimed entrepreneurial journey and the privilege that it's been to participate in and follow their success.

Brian made his Innovate Springfield membership official in January of 2020 but had been a long-time participant in our community and learning events. In March of last year [it was our last in-person meeting of 2020], Brian participated in our Growth Advisory Panel Program at Innovate Springfield, with the goal of developing a written plan to achieve his organizational objectives and glean pain points to growth. 

His expert panel included:
  • Mike O'Shea, President of O'Shea Builders
  • Debbie Thompson, Vice President, Senior Human Resources Business Partner
  • Katie Davison, Director of State Relations, NIU (former iSPI Director)
  • Sarah Beth Ayers, Director of Business Incubation, Innovate Springfield
The group discussed the possible acquisition of a competitor's business, prioritizing family and the complexities of life, visioning, task shedding, and developing a written plan to work toward goals. The panel supported and guided Brian to focus on what is most important to him, and recommended that he practice due diligence with respect to acquiring another business. 

Shortly after participating in the Growth Advisory Panel Program at Innovate Springfield, Brian grew his team to support his goal of spending more time with his family without compromising the growth of Sangamon Reclaimed. Rather than purchase his competitor's business, Brian leased space to them to diversify his revenue, and learn more about their operations. Brian also met with Innovate Springfield staff one-on-one to develop his organization's mission, vision, and values statements to ensure that the Sangamon Reclaimed culture and activities aligned with their organizational values.

All of Brian's work came together to create a true success story for Sangamon Reclaimed, and we're so proud to have played even a small part in the process.
Brian says ...
"When I started this in my garage I had no idea that it would grow into the award-winning company it has become. We've had the opportunity to serve clients from Chicago to Austin, TX along with homes and restaurants all over Springfield. It's been an incredible ride and I'm extremely grateful for the love and support you've showed to this dream I started 8 years ago.

In addition to new ownership, we have relocated to Clear Lake Drive, adjacent to downtown Springfield. The new location is up-and-running, and offers the addition of hardwood lumber sales, an expanded showroom, and larger woodshop for future growth (and DIY workshops) under the new ownership group.

We would love for you to stop by, meet our new owners and I hope you'll show them the same love and support you have me over the years. Thank you all and – as I hand over to Gregg and his family – I know Sangamon Reclaimed and its loyal clients, family, and friends are in great hands."
This is what our community looks like. This is why we call ourselves the iSPI Family.

It was a press conference to announce the Back to Business Small Business Grant Program and we were there. Check it out on the News Channel 20 Facebook Page.
Summer Startups, Having a Blast!
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