The McAllen Chamber of Commerce has done a lot of brainstorming to help area entrepreneurs and inventors.
The chamber has developed about a dozen programs for innovators who want to bring their ideas to market. One of the programs is The Idea Lab, an eight-session process in which innovators learn about competitive advantages, marketing strategies, building their product teams, patents and more.
“Another program is called The Good Pitch Competition, where entrepreneurs go on stage in an America’s Got Talent-type setting and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges along with about 80 people in the audience,” says Ivan Gonzalez, vice president for business development at the McAllen chamber. “It’s a stressful situation but an excellent learning experience, because entrepreneurs must be ready to pitch their idea to anyone – at any time and anywhere.”
Other chamber programs include I&E Network meetings, where inventors and entrepreneurs discuss individual project accomplishments and roadblocks in moving their product to market; a McAllen Youth Entrepreneur Factory that introduces public school students to the ideas of entrepreneurship to inspire future businesses; and a Latina Hope initiative to train women about basic business practices and teach them specialized skills such as jewelry making and cake decorating.
Mirthala “Laly” Quintanilla is a local inventor who wanted to bring her fashion product to market, and read in the newspaper about the McAllen chamber’s efforts to help entrepreneurs.
“I signed up for The Idea Lab and other programs, and in 2014 launched a line of wearable purses that are now available at www.mirtawearablepurses.com,” she says. “The chamber helped me get my product line launched.”
Mirta Wearable Purses look like colorful, round, decorative flowers that can attach to a belt, clip to pants pockets, or accessorize a blouse, but they are also small, discreet purses that can hold credit cards, cosmetics and other basics.
“I got help from the McAllen Chamber with feedback, videos, money backer ideas and kick-starting my campaign,” Quintanilla says. “I am so grateful to them – I learned so much.”
Bobby Bravo is another local entrepreneur who heard about The Idea Lab and enrolled in the free eight-session program.
“I thought I was already well prepared to launch my product, but the chamber opened up a whole new world of information and answers,” he says. “They taught me about talking with investors, profit margins, target markets, packaging and printing costs.”
Bravo has invented a product called Scope Perfection that assists hunters in the field. He expects his product to be patented in late 2014, followed by production and a website.
“I’ve already talked to local hunting shops that are very impressed with my invention and are anxious to get it in their stores,” Bravo says. “I must sincerely thank the McAllen chamber for making free programs like The Idea Lab and I&E Network Meetings available to me.”