Check out what's happening this week @InnovateSPI
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Last week we hosted a cohort of summer campers from the Springfield YMCA for a tour of our community space and ideation exercise. Can we stop for just one sec and say SWEET CORNSTALKS they were a bright group of young people!!!

We talked to the campers about their passions and dreams, and how we support the starters that we serve in achieving their visions of success. We also chatted about the various industries represented in our starter network, and the difference between creating a product-based and service-based business.

Check out the AMAZING concepts the students came up with in lightning speed:
  • GROUP 1 conceptualized a modified boat that uses water to create vapor clouds that help reflect the sun's rays, cooling the earth and combatting climate change. 
  • GROUP 2 developed an idea for wearable nuclear energy technology.
  • GROUP 3 never wants you to run out of toilet paper again, and instead, have applied a utility payment concept to this everyday necessity so you pay for what you use. How does the toilet paper regenerate itself, you ask? Science, they say.
  • GROUP 4 created a shoe insert called the "toe cushion" so you never stub your toe again, because ow! 
We are inspired.
It was such a treat for us to meet the students, to learn about their hopes and passions, and to let them know that Innovate Springfield and UIS are here to support their future business concepts and dreams.

We'd *love* to make this type of activity part of our regular schedule of events, so if your network could
benefit from learning about our collaborative community and resource offerings, you should totally reach out to us at and we'll see what we can do, together.
We're making all the Midwest magic happen!

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!

Innovate Springfield, in partnership with the Springfield Housing Authority, is proud to present, "Get
Your Startup Off the Ground!" If you've got an entrepreneurial mindset or an idea for a small business startup, you'll want to attend this session and hear how Innovate Springfield supports small businesses and connects them with resources to help them successfully launch!

When: Tuesday, July 13, 2021, from 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Where: Zoom

The Springfield Housing Authority is the primary leader in providing quality affordable housing to individuals and families while encouraging partnerships necessary for residents to develop self-sufficiency and to be productive members of the community.

Innovate Springfield believes that innovation and entrepreneurship should be a right and not a privilege and is committed to supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs including those owned by women, minorities, veterans, and individuals who are disabled.
At Innovate Springfield, we're building opportunities and eliminating barriers for all entrepreneurs.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT! If you have an idea for a small business concept, a product, a service, or a solution to a problem, stop what you're doing and check out the CO.STARTERS program at Innovate Springfield.
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

Check out a few of the concepts that got their start with CO.STARTERS at Innovate Springfield ...
The application is LIVE for our fall 2021 cohort scheduled to run August 25 - October 27, 2021. 
  • WEEK 1: knowing yourself
  • WEEK 2: knowing your customer
  • WEEK 3: finding the right solution
  • WEEK 4: getting the relationship right
  • WEEK 5: building the model to scale
  • WEEK 6: structure and systems
  • WEEK 7: discovering the bottom line
  • WEEK 8: financial modeling
  • WEEK 9: planning for growth
  • WEEK 10: celebration night
This is customer discovery!

We wrapped up Week 3 of our inaugural Summer Fellowship program last week and it's been a BLAST! The Fellows have come so far in an incredibly short time, and it's been really exciting to watch.

Last week the fellows ...

  • determined their main message;
  • created a communication plan to get their main message out into the world;
  • crafted their elevator pitches; and
  • brainstormed strategies to keep and grow customers over time.
We also got to chat with the President of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, John Stremsterfer, AND iSPI member and founder of Reverie Apparel, Patrick Russell.
The Summer 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 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.

The Summer Fellowship 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.
Meet CO.STARTERS at Innovate Springfield Graduate Veronica Tellez. Veronica is the founder of The Urban Ecological Center, a holistic community wellness center based on the three pillars of sustainability.
The mission of The Urban Ecological Center is to foster the self-discovery process of individuals seeking support in our community, acknowledging their personal assets and values, and connecting them to community resources to help them achieve their vision of success.  

We asked Veronica what she loves most about Springfield, and check out what she said, "Springfield is my hometown, the place where I have had most of my life experiences and the place where I understand the culture and people who live here the best. It has much potential, and for my friends and family who live here too, I hope to aid in its development."
Got an idea for a small business startup?! Check out CO.STARTERS at Innovate Springfield.

The City of Springfield has partnered with the University of Illinois Springfield to gather input from Springfield residents about the current speed, quality, and reliability of their household Internet, as well as the role the Internet had on homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City is asking one person in each household within the corporate city limits, who is eighteen years or older, to take this survey. Only one survey should be taken by a household.


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.

Upstairs Downtown is an award-winning downtown revitalization consultancy led by Dan Carmody, the Chief Executive of a nonprofit corporation responsible for operating the largest public market in the United States, and Mike Jackson, FAIA, retired division chief of the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office. Their team has analyzed three specific buildings in downtown Springfield from both an architectural and financial perspective, and they are prepared to share their findings--as well as real-world advice for how to move downtown Springfield forward--for property owners, investors, advocates, code officials, real estate agents, architects, and engineers.

The first evening will include a networking session with drinks and appetizers thanks to DSI's Momentum on Main Street program.

The second half-day of the presentation will feature a deep dive into financial options, led by Brian Hollenback, the President & CEO of Economic Growth Corporation. Hollenback led the development team who successfully turned the abandoned First United Methodist Church at 5th and Capitol into Centre at 501, which includes the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s new headquarters as well as 25 apartments, several of which are affordable housing units.

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.


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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