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NIU EIGERlab Expands its Entrepreneurial Reach


NIU EIGERlab’s mantra has always been “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

The unique combination of expertise, programming, services, and community connections offered at NIU EIGERlab helps startups and small businesses navigate the choppy waters of business growth and product development. One of the primary causes of small business failure is the isolation of the entrepreneur. NIU EIGERlab helps ensure that entrepreneurs are embraced and supported through their journey.

In the same vein, NIU EIGERlab works closely with regional partners to assist businesses in accelerating their development. NIU EIGERlab is a longtime partner with area Chambers of Commerce and economic development organizations. The Rockford Chamber’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consults with business clients at NIU EIGERlab’s coworking space at NIU-Rockford. Other innovation partners include DeKalb County Incubator, Fox Valley SCORE, Irontek (Beloit), other regional SBDCs, Thinker Ventures (Rockford), and UWW (Whitewater).

Drawing business to Rockford

NIU EIGERlab’s programs and activities draw entrepreneurs and investors from surrounding states to Rockford. Monthly Innovation Tuesday Meetup programs offer a wide-variety of top-of-mind subjects–bringing together solopreneurs, inventors, students, business owners, and those considering becoming an entrepreneur.

The 12th annual FastPitch Competition will be held October 3, 2018, at NIU-Rockford. Over the years, participants have shared that they valued the opportunity to win cash prizes, hone their pitches, and receive invaluable feedback. The 2017 winner, Dr. Trevor Gibbs invented Anestand, a tray which holds an anesthesiologists supplies is set to launch his product through the C4PD this spring. Gibbs identified a problem and invented a product which solves the problem of assisting anesthesiologists in inducing anesthesia in a hygienic way while keeping the items immediately available at arm’s length.

Both of NIU EIGERlab’s locations offer affordable accommodations for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Rockford and Loves Park. Cubicles and light industrial spaces are options in Loves Park, while cubicles and open coworking spaces are available at our East State Street location. Coworking members enjoy meeting with clients in a professional setting with an atmosphere conducive to doing business versus jangling spoons and other distractions at local coffee shops.

Collaboration is key

NIU EIGERlab urges entrepreneurs to seek opportunities to collaborate and the organization excels at collaboration as well. The Center for Product Development (C4PD) partners with industry leaders to acquire leading-edge equipment to help the C4PD provide leading-edge product development services to clients. Recently, Nota 3D provided a 3D Systems MJP 2500 Plus with the latest in materials that the industry has to offer.

The C4PD recently held an open house for area manufacturers and technology enthusiasts to take a look at its current technologies and to introduce the area to a new 3D printer from Super 3D Plus that is capable of both ceramics and full color. There is a wide variety of applications including aerospace, dental, ornamental, artistry, and complicated fragile parts not easily produced on the legacy systems.

Expanding throughout the region

NIU EIGERlab is taking its show on the road. Mike Cobert, director of the C4PD regularly meets with entrepreneurs in Naperville, Schaumburg, Elgin, and DeKalb. “I’m interested in removing any barriers that prevent us from connecting with inventors who need assistance moving their product ideas forward,” shared Mike.

NIU EIGERlab is increasingly familiar and connected throughout the region. This April, the NIU College of Business will replicate the signature FastPitch Competition on the DeKalb campus. Students will pitch their ideas and compete for a variety of prizes. Most importantly, they will receive valuable feedback and mentoring from NIU professors and alumni. NIU EIGERlab’s Sherry Pritz Enderle, longtime manager of FastPitch, is mentoring the students and faculty members as they plan their event.

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