Check out what's happening this week @InnovateSPI
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Every time we turn around an iSPI member is being recognized for their outstanding work. WOWZA! This week we're shouting out to Innovate Springfield members and prairie stars: Congratulations on being nominated for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce 2021 Small Business Awards in the New and Emerging Business Owner of the year category y'all. We are clapping.

Celebrate with Kirk, Jon, Buzz, and the other nominees at the GSCC Annual Small Business Awards event on August 24, 2021. Get your tickets TODAY!
Kirk Kellus joined Innovate Springfield in March of 2017 to develop an app called Union Buddy that was designed to help union members manage their benefits. He later sold the app and pivoted to co-found Clean Impact with Jon Roe in 2018. 

Clean Impact is a full custodial service commercial cleaning company proudly serving Springfield and the surrounding areas.
In an effort to strategically growth their concept, Kirk and Jon participated in the iSPI Growth Advisory Panel program in February of 2020. Their goal was to outgrow their Innovate Springfield headquarters and purchase a storefront to expand their operations and incerase their revenue.

Their expert panel discussed lead generation, customer retention strategies, standardized operating procedures, and task shedding as opportunities to pivot from "firefighting mode." They helped to guide the founders toward action and recommended they develop a multi-year strategic plan to realize their chokepoints to growth.

Since participating in the Growth Advisory Panel program at Innovate Springfield, Kirk and Jon have outgrown the Innovate Springfield community space and relocated Clean Impact to 2241 Groth Rd, in Springfield, IL. 
They have also DOUBLED their business since participating in the Growth Avidory Panel program, and now they've been nominated for a Small Business Award!
Major congratulations to Kirk and Jon on their New and Emerging Business Owner of the Year Award Nomination!
New to Springfield, IL, from Anchorage, AK, Michael Buzinski joined Innovate Springfield in October of 2019. Buzz is a website marketing expert who has been building websites and increasing his client's revenues through digital marketing since 1999.

He recently wrote a book, The Rule of 26 For Service-Based Businesses, available on amazon. 

Shout-out to Buzz on his New and Emerging Business Owner of the Year Award Nomination!
Both Kirk and Jon, and Buzz are fantastic iSPI community members. They consistently engage in our programming, volunteer their time to support others who are just starting out and say things like ...
  • "This was a great exercise for Jon and me. We are looking forward to another meeting with the panel. Thanks for being awesome!!" - Kirk
  • "You are amazing! I LOVE the way the room looks with all the papers on the wall. It looks like a legit startup community GREAT WORK!!!" - Kirk
  • "You rock. Thank you for taking the time to do such a great shoutout on the newsletter." - Buzz
  • "Thank you for another great newsletter. I love the breakdown of the membership mix. It excites me to be a part of an organization that values the diversity of its members." - Buzz

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!

If you want to start something, live your vision of startup success, and be your own boss, you HAVE to be able to tell your story in a strong and compelling way. 

Don't fumble your startup story, SAVE THE DATE for Thursday, August 5 from 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM with local Journalist, UIS Professor, and Activator Magazine Editor Scott Faingold

Official details and registration information to follow.

The deadline to apply to participate in our fall CO.STARTERS cohort is fast approaching and we honestly can't begin to explain how valuable this program is for supporting a small business starter from ideation to execution. 

We take time to evaluate every program that we facilitate to ensure that we're doing what we set out to do, because we are so super-duper serious about providing the highest quality resources and programming to the starters that we serve. 

We just got our spring CO.STARTERS cohort feedback report and we are BEAMING. Check out these seriously MEGA testimonies ...

  • "I'm truly grateful for this experience. It did engender in me a desire to more fully integrate my business presence into the community of businesses and to help others."
  • "Honestly, I've learned more from this course than I have in any of my college business classes. Sarah and everyone has been so motivating and encouraging throughout the whole process. I couldn't have gotten any of these experiences from my college courses."
  • "My facilitator absolutely made the program! She was great!"
  • "It's a more personal experience than I've had in my business classes at college. Everyone is so inspiring, and it's great to be around like-minded people."
But that's not all! 86% of participants say they ...
  • know how to start and lead their venture (+73% increase);
  • know how to get and use customer feedback to improve (+36% increase);
  • know how to evaluate their ventures' potential (+48% increase); and
  • know how to market and sell their products or services (+36% increase).
100% of the starters served report feeling connected and supported by the local community in launching their venture and know their next steps. [YESSSSS!]
CO.STARTERS is a proven effective program endorsed by the International Business Innovation Association. Innovate Springfield has received special funding to support underrepresented entrepreneurs in participating in our fall CO.STARTERS cohort because we believe that innovation and entrepreneurship should be a right and not a privilege.

We're committed to supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs including women, minorities, veterans, and individuals who are disabled in achieving their entrepreneurial dreams.

NEW THIS FALL >> UIS students interested in earning an elective credit as a participant in the CO.STARTERS program this fall should contact Rob Weis in the Office of Engaged Learning for details at

If you or someone you know has an interest in participating in our fall CO.STARTERS cohort, don't delay. Apply today!
At Innovate Springfield, we're building opportunities and eliminating barriers for all entrepreneurs.

We wrapped up Week 4 of our inaugural Summer Fellowship program last week and we are so proud!

Brian Frieze, the founder of Sangamon Reclaimed stopped by to chat with the fellows about how and why he started Sangamon Reclaimed; how his concept has grown; and how he has woven his personal passions for woodworking, preservation, sustainability, history, family, and his military affinity into his brand.

We also got to hear from Springfield-native, downtown developer, and co-founder of The Public Market, David Lee. 

David and Brian both shared their devotion for Springfield with the fellows and talked about their vision for the future of our beloved city. Basically, there is nowhere else they would rather live, work, and invest in than Springfield, IL.
The Summer Fellowship Program aims to create new local businesses, expand existing local businesses, and attract homegrown talent back to the area. We are literally pulling all the stops to make this the most valuable, applicable, and fun experiential learning opportunity around.

Last week, we asked the fellows on a scale of 1 to 10, just how much fun they are having in the program and they gave us a "solid 8.5, pushing 9."

We'll take it.

The fellowship program is a collaborative effort between The Community Foundation for the Land of LincolnThe University of Illinois Springfield College of Business and Management; iVENTURED; and Innovate Springfield.

The program will run through mid-August and will commemorate with a final capstone event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
It's going to be GREAT. Stay tuned for more details!


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.

Innovate Springfield member Dwight Bolden, founder of The Zodiac Customs presents “culture” a designer streetwear fashion experience. Visit Venue 1929 on Friday, July 30 from 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM for exclusive couture fashion, handcrafted by Zodiac Customs.


TODAY AND TOMORROW // DSI's Momentum on Main Street Committee and Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation invite you to a free 1.5-day workshop Monday, July 19, and Tuesday, July 20 to learn how to convert upper story spaces in downtown Springfield into income-producing apartments.

The workshop is geared to Main Street stakeholders who are not full-time real estate developers, so that they may obtain a working knowledge of the development challenges and opportunities needed to increase the use of vacant upper stories in smaller historic buildings. It is the first in an educational and networking series planned for 2021 by DSI’s Momentum on Main Street Committee, picking up where it left off before the pandemic with a continued goal to attract the next generation of investors, developers, and entrepreneurs.

This event is FREE. Register HERE.


Team RED Office hours
DCEO’s Regional Economic Development Team is hosting weekly office hours on the days and times listed below. These sessions are designed as open times that the Team is available. The Team will provide you with the latest updates and answer any questions you may have on state or federal programs. Feel free to drop in for any assistance you need.

If these times do not work for you, please reach out to your regional Team RED

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Overview
Date and time: Friday, July 23, 2021, 1:00 PM Central Standard Time

Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar as we give an overview of the agency and talk about the programs available to help businesses. Click here to register for this event.

Presented by Joe McKeown, Northeast Region Senior Account Manager, and Manny Lopez, Northeast Regional Manager of Regional Economic Development, DCEO

Advantage Illinois: How local community banks can partner with the State of Illinois to help small business
Date and time: Wednesday, July 28, 2021, 11:00 AM Central Standard Time

Enhancing access to capital for Illinois businesses is a top priority. The Brookings Institution has noted that more than 95% of new jobs are derived from business expansion or start-up activity. Small businesses are the backbone of the Illinois economy, and the Advantage Illinois program is here to assist. In this webinar, you will learn how the state's banking community can help entrepreneurs and small businesses start-up, expand and create new jobs at a faster rate by partnering with the State of Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity through this participation loan program.

Guest speakers include John D. Hill and Mark Schultz, Advantage Illinois Team for the Office of Business Development. Local community banks are encouraged to attend! Click here to register for this event.

Presented by Kala Lambert, Southeast Regional Manager of Regional Economic Development, DCEO

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity EDGE Overview
Date and time: Friday, July 30, 2021, 1:00 PM Central Standard Time

Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's Office of Regional Economic Development for a webinar to learn more about the Economic Development For a Growing Economic (EDGE) tax credit within the Illinois Department of Commerce to help businesses. Click here to register for this event.

Presented by Manny Lopez, Northeast Regional Manager, and Joe McKeown, Northeast Region Senior Account Manager of Regional Economic Development, DCEO

The second season of Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series presented by PNC, a ten-week series of free, live music on the Y Block, is here! 

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