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Published December 01, 2022
A weekly look at issues facing Wyoming business owners and entrepreneurs from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Kelly Haigler Cornish, Wyoming SBIR/STTR Initiative (WSSI) program manager, Wyoming SBDC Network
Small businesses interested in applying for funding through the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs have a couple of options to learn about the programs’ intricacies and develop applications.
The two options discussed here are the self-paced and the cohort-based models. The best way will depend on a business’s learning style and work preferences.
The self-paced model is what it sounds like: Small businesses use resources and tools provided by the Wyoming SBDC Network team to learn how to navigate the SBIR/STTR Initiative programs and build a competitive proposal working one-on-one with an SBDC adviser. During the self-paced model, small businesses set their own schedule for completing the proposal development tasks, only reaching out for help when questions arise. The self-paced model is for those teams that like the convenience of developing their own schedules and the flexibility that it allows.
Additionally, the self-paced model can create a low-pressure environment with lots of autonomy since the team is not forced to complete tasks on someone else’s timeline. If team members want to work on the support letters before developing the budget, they can choose to do so. If the work schedule is unpredictable, the self-paced model may be a better fit for a team.
The other alternative is the cohort model. This is a collaborative learning environment, where a group comes together to work through a program or, in this case, SBIR or STTR applications. The cohort model is led by a trainer or a team of trainers with SBIR/STTR proposal expertise.
Typically, the group meets for a predetermined number of weeks at a designated time each week to tackle specific application tasks while following a prescribed schedule. There are assignments each week with goals set by the trainers.
The cohort model is a good fit for those teams interested in a collaborative learning environment with cross-team interaction. Additionally, some teams need the structure, accountability and support provided by the cohort.
The cohort model can be great for those who struggle with time management and planning. Having a group to lean on can be reassuring for applicants working through a complex task such as writing a proposal. A cohort also is a good option for less-experienced applicants who need additional support with the application and grant submission process. If a team can commit to weekly assignments, the cohort model may be right for that team.
With both the self-paced and cohort models, small businesses submit the technical proposal and cost budget/justification to the Wyoming SBDC Network team for review and feedback. This feedback includes comments and recommendations on the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses. Trainers like to see the first draft of the proposal approximately four weeks before the federal deadline. This timeline allows small businesses to incorporate the feedback and prepare for a final review before proposal submission.
Whether a team’s learning and work style are more conducive to a self-paced or cohort model, the Wyoming SBDC Network can help with a business’s SBIR or STTR proposal. The Wyoming SBDC Network is currently planning a National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR/STTR cohort group for March/April 2023 with colleagues at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, Montana Innovation Partnership and New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.
Wyoming-based small businesses that are looking at SBIR or STTR opportunities at NSF and that would like to be considered for the cohort group can reach out to their Wyoming SBDC Network regional director or the Wyoming SBIR/STTR program manager for more information.
The Wyoming SBDC Network offers no-cost advising and technical assistance to help Wyoming entrepreneurs think about, launch, grow, reinvent or exit their business. In 2021, the Wyoming SBDC Network helped Wyoming entrepreneurs start 80 new businesses; support 4,077 jobs; and bring a capital impact of $9.2 million to the state. The Wyoming SBDC Network is hosted by UW with state funds from the Wyoming Business Council and funded, in part, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com, or write Dept. 3922, 1000 E. University Ave., Laramie, WY 82071-3922.