Updated: Jan 29, 2021
At Greater Fergus Falls, our goal is to help businesses of all sizes grow and thrive. In addition to working with established companies, our team also assists entrepreneurs and small business owners with their start-ups. We recently announced an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs to take their ideas to the next level with the Launch MN & ILT Studios West Central 2021 Cohort and are thrilled to sponsor two participants as they take part in the 20-week program.
What is the ILT Academy?
The ILT Academy is designed to help individuals and teams shape their business ideas, fine-tune existing products, and develop and grow like a start-up. The program is a partnership between ILT Academy, LaunchMinnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Throughout the program, participants will explore and refine their ideas through remote learning, collaboration, and coaching. Facilitators will match cohort members to a mentor to help them hone their ideas while developing the skills to build a successful business.
In the start-up school series, participants will learn how to:
Develop and shape ideas
Assess market potential
Validate products, customers, and markets
Plan for future development
Prepare for investment
At the end of the program, the cohort will have a chance to pitch a group of regional start-up investors and get feedback on their business ideas.
Meet Our Entrepreneurs
As mentioned above, Greater Fergus Falls has the pleasure of sponsoring two entrepreneurs to participate in this academy. Those with a business idea, start-up business, or existing business were encouraged to apply, and we received many applications from great candidates. While we wish we could have sponsored them all, our team is so delighted to have awarded sponsorships to Dr. Shauna Overgaard and Nancy XiáoRong Valentine.
Now, let’s meet the entrepreneurs!
Dr. Shauna Overgaard
Dr. Shauna Overgaard is a full-time assistant professor in health informatics and the founder of Clarity Applied Intelligence. Her passion lies in using machine learning to personalize healthcare by accurately predicting an individual’s course of health, illness, and response to treatment. Clarity Applied Intelligence develops and implements artificial intelligence algorithms and offers consultative services in healthcare data analytics to companies that prioritize personalized medicine.
“My motivation in this work is to honor the intelligence and autonomy of the human being. To democratize healthcare data is to empower humans to own and understand themselves,” Dr. Overgaard explains. “Ultimately, I’m interested in helping humans understand and objectively monitor their brain functions and health through machine learning. But to do this, we must lay a solid foundation.”
While taking steps to achieve her dreams, Dr. Overgaard has actively pursued entrepreneurial and start-up training. When the opportunity to participate in the ILT Academy presented itself, it seemed like the perfect fit. The academy’s remote nature has made it possible for her to participate in the training while also contributing to the community. “I used to think that I needed to put my goals on hold until we moved back to an area that supports my work. Partnering with Greater Fergus Falls has changed my perspective. It has become clear that one can enjoy the quality of life offered by beautiful Fergus Falls while continuing to create cutting edge solutions.”
When asked what kind of outcome she is hoping to achieve while participating in the academy, Dr. Overgaard says, “I’m hoping to learn new methods, the associated communication styles, and the innovation-focused teamwork dynamics modeled in the academy to lead my start-up and support others in doing the same. I plan to accomplish this and create a vetted business plan and prototype to inform my timeline and investors.”
Starting a new chapter is always a little scary, but Dr. Overgaard isn’t letting the fear of failure stop her. “The way the ILT Academy is structured is that we are continually evolving and innovating. All of this is occurring in front of our coaches and our cohort. While I consider myself persistent, I’m looking forward to the continued growth that failure will allow … They have systemized the training so that every iteration of our work is valuable and better than the first attempts.”
Nancy XiáoRong Valentine
Nancy Valentine is a self-taught water medium artist and has been a small business owner since 2016 when she began selling her art. She currently commissions art pieces and sells original works, prints, and artist merchandise on her website. As an artist, Valentine is very involved with the area’s creative community and serves as the Vice President of the Kaddatz Galleries Board of Directors.
Driven by a desire to intersect her art with her love for the Fergus Falls region, Valentine began thinking of ways to use her talents to help our community shine. Inspiration struck after installing murals in her own home and working with other local artists on community projects. She now aspires to expand her artistic offerings to include creative murals for families and businesses in the area.
“I believe creativity to be a connector and have been pondering what possibilities there are for using my creativity on a larger scale to better amplify the vibrancy of the region. When we see wings painted on the brick walls of alleyways, we flock to them to pose for photos and share them online instantly. I want to use my artistry as an agent of community connectedness and hope the ILT Academy Cohort will catalyze that process,” she says.
In addition to learning the fundamentals of business and entrepreneurship, Valentine is excited to connect with the other ILT Academy Cohort participants. “I believe I will glean much wisdom and understanding from the leaders of this academy, but I’m looking forward to learning from the real-life experiences of others navigating similar spaces.”
The Greater Fergus Falls team is thrilled to sponsor these two entrepreneurs, and we’re excited to watch their business ideas take shape. We’ll be sharing updates about their experience with the ILT Academy over the next 20 weeks, so be sure to visit our blog and follow along on social media.