In the summer of 2015, the City of Jackson became one of 25 cities nationwide to win a $50,000 grant through the Startup In A Day Competition. This initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, aims to facilitate solutions that let entrepreneurs discover and apply for local, state, and federal requirements, such as licenses and permits, in order to start a business within one business day.
The current process to start a business in the City of Jackson is highly disorganized. Outside of their own independent research across a range of websites, entrepreneurs will first go to City Hall’s ground floor to ask questions of available staff. But with limited staff, it is difficult for entrepreneurs to get optimal assistance. To receive further counseling or to obtain relevant forms, entrepreneurs are directed from City Hall to the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce (JCCC) and then to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is a 45 minute drive away in Ann Arbor. Problems with this current process are as follows:
1. No central hub exists to find permits and licenses needed specific to business industry
2. Application forms cannot be submitted online and PDF scans must be printed and completed offline
3. There is no timeline for processing of applications
4. It is taxing and time-consuming for entrepreneurs to track progress, get feedback, and follow-up on applications.
To address these issues, the City of Jackson will use their $50,000 grant to create Business Connect, a centralized online platform to streamline business startup in Jackson. The City has planned a 15 month timeline with milestones to implement Business Connect.
Our solution is a medium-fidelity prototype that serves as a blueprint for the development of Business Connect. We identified and designed key features that we believe will help to streamline the dissemination of online small business resources and guide users through the startup process. This design was inspired by feedback from city officials and current small business owners in the City of Jackson. The features of the proposed Business Connect website are as follows:
1. Links to local, state, and federal small business resources, such as the Jackson Retail Success Academy, Midtown Association of Jackson, the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, and the Michigan Small Business Development Center
2. A zoning map of the city to helps users plan the best location for their business
3. Links to permits, licenses, and forms at the city, county, state, and federal levels
4. Three examples of popular business industries and a breakdown of the permits/licenses needed, the agency from where to obtain the form and a timeline for acceptance
5. A “Featured Business” section where users can read profiles and watch videos of successful local entrepreneurs to inspire users and encourage mentorship between entrepreneurs.
With this solution, it satisfies the first milestone in the City's 15 month timeline to implement Business Connect, which was planning and research. This proof-of-concept model provides the City with a solid foundation to move toward development.