Lakeshore Advantage entrepreneurship director takes on international role

Amanda Chocko has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years. Now, her span of influence is going global.

The Director of Entrepreneurship at Lakeshore Advantage has been elected to a three-year term on the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) Board of Directors. 

InBIA’s board provides governance and strategic oversight for one of the world’s most prestigious networks of entrepreneurial support professionals. 

Chocko “brings a passion to entrepreneurial support that is grounded in her direct entrepreneurial experience, and we look forward to her contributions,” says Charles Ross, Interim President of InBIA. 

Lakeshore Advantage has been a member of InBIA since 2007, and Chocko has been active in some of its programming. When the board announced it was looking for nominations for the board of directors, she decided to throw her hat into the ring.

A good fit

Chocko says she was drawn to the opportunity to work with other incubator and entrepreneurship managers throughout the world, and being on the forefront of the latest and greatest innovations.

“It’s great being able to be part of this organization at this level, where I have a bird's-eye view of other economic development organizations, universities, incubators, and really all types of innovation centers to know best practices, and really cutting edge things that are happening,” Chocko says. 

Supporting startups is a good fit for Chocko, who is an entrepreneur at heart and has started a number of her own ventures, including a salon, a dating service, an events and training company, and most recently a nutritional therapy practice called “The Feeling Groovy Project.” 

Chocko brings to the InBIA board more than a decade of experience in incubator and accelerator management, program development, and working with startups. She’s been at Lakeshore Advantage assisting entrepreneurs for a total of six years. 

SURGE leader

She leads entrepreneurial efforts with SURGE, a virtual startup company incubator that is powered by Lakeshore Advantage. Under Chocko’s leadership, SURGE has helped navigate 50 West Michigan startup companies and entrepreneurs so far this year.

She launched SURGE Boostcamp and the current virtual incubator structure and programming for SURGE. Chocko spent eight years at Start Garden, where she helped launch 5x5 Night and the Seamless IoT commercialization program. 

The SURGE Boostcamp is designed to help entrepreneurs with developing proof of concept. 

“Boostcamp is really helping entrepreneurs from ideation through those first two or three years of growth, before they kind of age out of being a startup, when they become eligible for some advantages for more traditional economic development,” Chocko says.

New support offerings

During the pandemic, Lakeshore Advantage pivoted and found new ways to support entrepreneurs. The group, for example, provided information on the grants and loans, as well as access to personal protection equipment.

It also focused on peer-to-peer support and programming with roundtables bringing late-stage entrepreneurs together to discuss critical issues, and launched SURGE Straight Talk, a Facebook Live series interviewing entrepreneurs and investors in the community. It also began the monthly SURGE Coffee Talk, a virtual meetup where the startup community gets together to give updates about their work.

“People could see how other people were handling navigating through COVID with their businesses and really trying to make resources available,” Chocko says of the programming that can be found on the group's YouTube channel.

“We're in the process of further calibration service, as we go into 2021," says Chocko. "We're trying to create resources at every stage of a company's journey, so we're excited about unveiling that pretty soon.”

Read more about Lakeshore Advantage:

Lakeshore Advantage helps interns picture their future in West Michigan

Communication key to helping employees adjust to new COVID-19 normal

Transparency and inclusiveness drive Restart Grant award process

Grants up to $20,000 available for small businesses impacted by COVID-19

Zeeland partners with MEDC, Lakeshore Advantage to support COVID-19 recovery

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