Local entrepreneurs have taken their innovative ideas from prototype to the market with the help of Innovate-Up, a program offered through The Brink Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of San Diego that launched last year and is supported in part through a $300,000 County of San Diego grant from Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
While the pandemic has introduced new challenges for small business owners, Innovate-Up has focused on virtual events and one-on-one consulting to help businesses pivot to digital delivery and embrace new opportunities that the shift opened to entrepreneurs.
The Innovate-Up program includes special outreach and on-ramps for entrepreneurs from six under-resourced San Diego neighborhoods near and important to USD — Chollas, City Heights, Encanto, Linda Vista, Rolando Park and Redwood Village — with a full suite of completely free resources to start and scale up their businesses.
“Prior to coming to the Brink and the Innovate-Up program, I spent close to $15,000 on the prior patent attorney,” said Ruth Young-Loaeza, an entrepreneur and creator of the patented product, Neet Sheets. “I have just received my second patent… and I haven’t paid a dime. It definitely has made the difference for my business and my product.”
Throughout the program, Innovate Up has leveraged the power of USD and San Diego Imperial Small Business Development Center Network to support over 248 clients in these neighborhoods with business advice, supported 16 new business starts, helped 13 companies increase sales, and created over 50 jobs, supporting many more.