The SmartStart program is an excellent resource for anyone with a business idea. Our approach is designed to educate and guide entrepreneurs through the process of validating and growing their idea. You’ll develop essential entrepreneurial skills while building a roadmap that details your business opportunity. After completing the program, you’ll have a solid understanding of what it takes to create a sustainable business.

Course Details

The program involves six separate class sessions, over the course of 6 weeks, along with homework outside the class. Each class session lasts for about 2 hours and is typically held after work hours (for example, 5-7 pm). The work you complete throughout the course ultimately becomes the content for your pitch deck. To graduate from the SmartStart program, you will pitch your idea to a group of community members. Classes are held virtually and in person, in Houghton or Hancock.

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SmartStart Session Overview

Session 1___________________________

  • What is the Problem?
  • What Is your Solution?
  • Homework: Contact or list at least 5 customers

Session 2___________________________

  • Product-Market Fit & Product Solution Fit
  • How big is this Opportunity?
  • Homework: Contact or list at least 5 customers

Session 3___________________________

  • Who are your customers?
  • What are your Value Propositions?
  • Start Preparing Your “Pitch”
  • Homework: Contact or list at least 5 customers

Session 4___________________________

  • Who is your Competition?
  • What are your Value Propositions?
  • Homework: Contact or list at least 5 customers

Session 5___________________________

  • Who is on your Team?
  • Why You?
  • Financial Projections

Session 6___________________________

  • What is your go-to market strategy?
  • What is your Story?
  • Extra Bonus Topic (depending on team’s needs)

Session 7___________________________

  • Planning for the Future
  • Decision Time: Go or no go?
  • Pitch practice

You’ll get access to experienced business experts (legal, intellectual property, marketing, research, financial) and the guidance of SmartStart Program instructor, Jason Mack. He provides entrepreneurial coaching to help you develop a business value proposition for your technology ideas. His experience in startup development provides the resources you need to launch your product into the marketplace. Outcomes include:

  • A full understanding of all components of your business – not just your idea
  • Understand how to captivate a market and identify target customers
  • Build the best and most efficient team
  • Develop a financial forecast that incorporates cost, not just revenue
  • Ways to possibly protect your idea through trademarks, copyrights, and patents
  • Confidently present your business proposal to investors
  • When necessary, the ability to create a business plan


Anyone with an idea or existing business is welcome to apply. Our mentoring and coaching program welcomes community members, students, researchers, and local business people who are passionate about their ideas. Ideas/businesses do not have to be technology related.

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Cost for the program:

No cost! Just your time.