HOUGHTON/MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – Every great invention or product began as nothing more than an idea. But figuring out how to take it from idea to reality is often the hardest part. But thankfully, the Houghton Smartzone and its satellite Smartzone in Marquette, know exactly where to start.
"The Smartzone is a business incubator,” said Jason Mack, the Vice President of Business Development with the Houghton Smartzone. “We're one of about 16 in the state of Michigan, and our aim is to grow more businesses in the local community."
With the Smartzone's help, entrepreneurs can explore the operations, funding, and marketing needed to launch and grow a business or product at any stage of development.
"They can come to us at any point in the evolution of an idea,” said Ray Johnson, CEO of Innovate Marquette Smartzone. “For example, we have folks that have walked in and the idea is still in their head, and then we have just recently had an entrepreneur that already has a patent. So we work with them at any point in the process."
Both the Houghton and Marquette locations believe the services offered at each Smartzone not only help individual entrepreneurs, but also the Upper Peninsula’s economy as a whole.
"We take their ideas and bring them forward into creating products, businesses, and frankly more jobs in the region and in the community," said Johnson.
"We want to really support the local community,” said Mack. “We're really trying to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Not just here in the Houghton/Hancock area, but really throughout as much of the U.P. as possible."
But in order for an idea to come to life, the entrepreneur must always take a leap of faith.
"It's a first call, it's an email, and a meeting with me, where I can do an assessment of what I think they might have, the challenges they might face in bringing an idea to fruition, and taking it from the back of a napkin to an actual commercial launch, and all the steps in between," said Johnson.