Mentor Connect trains the next generation of Spokane businesses

Published January 19, 2017 by Greater Spokane Inc. January is National Mentoring Month, honoring individuals who help bring up the next generation. Mentoring takes on various forms, and in Spokane, a special business mentor program through Startup Spokane, a program of Greater Spokane Incorporated, is helping the next generation of entrepreneurs get their business up and running. Mentor Connect is just one way Startup Spokane helps local entrepreneurs connect with business leaders and innovators, sharing a wealth of knowledge throughout our region. The program launched in October last year and currently has around 20 active mentors. Richard Repp, principal with Witherspoon Kelley, has served with the program since its inception, viewing it as an opportunity to pay it forward. “I have benefited from some great mentors in my career and I consider it a duty and an honor to pay it forward and help others however I can,” he said. “I view my participation as an extension of the efforts that I and a number of other members of the business community are making to build a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem for scalable startups in our region.” Repp noted that it’s important for businesses to strike while the iron is hot, due to a number of factors, including funding availability and a competitive marketplace. With the connections provided through Mentor Connect, entrepreneurs are able to develop their business idea with years of experience guiding them along the way. Mentors can even refer entrepreneurs to another mentor in the program, helping to create the supportive ecosystem Repp sought when joining the program. For Michael Ebinger, Director of the WSU Center for Innovation, getting...

Mentor Spotlight: Dan Wadkins

Dan Wadkins is a Business and Intellectual Property Attorney at Lee & Hayes, PLLC.  In his “day job”, Dan advises a wide variety of businesses, from startups to well-established companies, in the areas of corporate, securities and financing, mergers and acquisitions, trademark and brand protection, intellectual property protection and commercialization, wine and alcohol beverage law, and commercial transactions. But, as Dan says “the most fun thing I get to do is work with startups.” He finds the passion of the entrepreneurs he works with contagious, and his passion for working with and supporting entrepreneurs and the startup community in the region mirrors theirs.  Dan is an avid supporter of the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and can be found at supporting or participating in numerous events and programs including Startup Weekend Spokane, the Northwest Entrepreneur Competition and the WSU Business Plan Competition where he serves as a mentor, judge and resource night educator. Dan is passionate about entrepreneurial education and can be seen many-a-night during the school year in various campus classrooms guest lecturing in entrepreneurship classes including SCC’s Business Model Canvas Workshop, Whitworth’s Entrepreneurship class, Gonzaga University and Ignite Northwest.  Dan is also on the Advisory Board for Gonzaga’s New Venture Lab. Dan says the main reason he stayed in Spokane after graduating law school was “how much opportunity and possibility I saw gathering inertia in our area; with Startup Spokane and Startup Weekend and everyone coming together I see nothing but opportunity for Spokane to care out our own entrepreneurship...

Mentor Connect Spotlight

Rick Repp is a business lawyer and principal at the law firm of Witherspoon Kelley, where he practices in the areas of corporate, securities, mergers and acquisitions, banking and general business transactions. During the past 15 years he has represented clients in over 50 securities offerings, including private placements with an aggregate value of over $850 million and numerous registered public offerings. A significant portion of his legal practice is also focused on negotiating mergers, acquisitions and sales of public and private businesses. When asked what compelled him to give back to the startup community, Repp says: ”Before starting law school, I had an opportunity to help the small company I was working for raise $500,000 to expand their business and that is when I decided I wanted to become a securities lawyer. I have found there is nothing more gratifying in my line of work than helping a business grow, hire more employees and get their products to market. Working with startups is especially rewarding because I can help build something new that did not exist before.” Repp has been actively involved in the Spokane entrepreneurial community, including serving as Board Chair of Connect Northwest when part of its programming was merged into Greater Spokane Incorporated to form Startup Spokane. He continues to serve on the advisory board of Startup Spokane and provides guidance to startups through Startup Spokane’s Mentor Connect program. He serves on the board of directors of the Spokane Angel Alliance and is a founding board member of Innovate Cheney.  Repp has also guest lectured for Ignite Northwest and the Gonzaga Business Law Symposium and...

The Northwest Entrepreneur Competition

The Northwest Entrepreneur Competition (NEC) is a decade long consortium competition of business plans from seven regional higher education institutions – Whitworth University, Eastern Washington University, University of Idaho, Community Colleges of Spokane, Gonzaga University and Washington State University. It is the second largest business plan competition in Washington State and sees between 70-100 student team submissions annually. Over 25 judges from the community participate with multiple sponsors who value and support entrepreneurship in the Spokane community. The Northwest Entrepreneur Competition seeks to: Provide students and their teams with constructive feedback and encouragement to proceed with building a sustainable enterprise based on their submitted business plan. Be a competitive and compelling launch pad for student teams who wish to continue on the regional and national business plan circuit. Create businesses that will directly benefit the Inland Northwest region through increased economic impact and employment opportunities. This year’s competition will be held at Whitworth University on Thursday, April 13. There are several ways to get involved with the NEC: Compete – If you are a high school or college student, start a team or enter an idea to compete in the competition. Support – If you are a community member with an entrepreneurial spirit, join a student team to support their idea in the competition. Judge – If you are an industry/business expert or seasoned entrepreneur, join the competition as a judge and help provide critical feedback and support to student teams as they move through the process. Contact the NEC’s Director, Sinead Voorhees, if you wish to participate as a judge for the competition. Sponsor – If you are...

Inspiring Innovation through Collaboration

Michael Ebinger is currently the Director of the WSU University Center for Innovation. His efforts and interests include commercializing technical research and evaluating the economic feasibility of new ideas and products through marketing research, business strategies, and operations.  In 2016, Ebinger has met with 46 potential startups, dedicating more than 8 hours each to 33 of these. His efforts have led to 4 new business starts. Additionally, Ebinger currently teaches courses in the WSU Online MBA program. In line with his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship, Ebinger plays a crucial role in Spokane’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. He is dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs through his partnership with Startup Spokane where he hosts Office Hours each week. In addition to time spent one-on-one with entrepreneurs, he is a mentor in Startup Spokane’s Mentor Connect program offering his expertise to new startups. Ebinger is also an active member of the Knowledge Network, a conglomeration of many of the support resources available in the ecosystem. Ebinger graduated from the University of Arizona in 1980 (BA with Honors, Anthropology) and 1984 (MS, Soils, Water, and Engineering); from Purdue University in 1988 (Ph. D. in Soil Chemistry and Mineralogy); and from Washington State University in 2010 (MBA). He joined the research staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1988 and served as staff scientist until 2003.  He became Ecosystems Team Lead in 2003 then interim Group Leader and Deputy Division Leader at different times for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division through 2005.  In 2005 he was named Group Leader of the Atmosphere, Climate, and Ecosystems Dynamics Group, a position he held until 2008 when he...