By Amy Vohs | Founder, Lil' Sidekick

Creating a startup of any kind from scratch is no small feat. And inventing a consumer product and bringing it to market is an even harder road and one that is less traveled, especially by women.

However, aligning yourself with the right people in the Greater Des Moines area can help move the needle on your business.

If you have that great idea — you know, the one that you dreamed up as a solution to an everyday problem, and the one that prevents you from falling asleep at night because you can’t get it out of your head — here are five local resources you need to know about to take those first steps to entrepreneurship.

1. Mike Colwell, executive director of entrepreneurial initiatives, Greater Des Moines Partnership
Mike works with startups to build their business model, financial model, marketing strategies and capitalization plan in his role as executive director of entrepreneurial initiatives of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Mike is a great coach and mentor with 20 years of experience under his belt and his Raising Capital Seminar is very useful for startups.

2. Christina Moffatt, director of small business development, Greater Des Moines Partnership
A small business owner herself, Christina knows the challenges of running a high-quality business that meets customer demands and helps drive community growth. She is a mentor for all business owners, regardless of where they are in the process, and she is a champion for female founders. Christina has enlisted me in the past as a guest speaker for her seminars, and I truly believe these events will help you help you create, launch and grow your business for little or no cost.

3. Jenica Johnson, regional director, Iowa Small Business Development Centers
One of the absolute first places to start your entrepreneurial journey is with the SBDC. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the local center is located in Des Moines and provides one-on-one no-fee, confidential counseling to existing business owners and would-be entrepreneurs in Dallas, Jasper, Marion, Polk and Warren counties, in addition to providing workshops and seminars. On top of that, Jenica is just a wonderful person to talk to!

4. VentureNet Iowa
The folks at VentureNet Iowa know their stuff. The staff will take a look at your company and help you by connecting you to resources to help in your development. They are also a wonderful place to investigate grants for your business. In fact, the Iowa Economic Development Authority has engaged the services of VentureNet Iowa to manage the State’s Innovative Funding Programs. Program information is available here.

5. Me!
I am more than happy to give an hour or two to any potential startup founder. I can help you navigate product development, product launches, how to get your products placed in retail stores, and everything in between.

To find out more about Amy and her company visit, www.lilsidekick.com or the company’s Facebook page.