The Five "Ators" That Hasten Entrepreneurship
At Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College ("EWVCTC”),
we serve an expansive geography, covering an area roughly three times the size
of Rhode Island. Our service district is home to a very diverse population,
including ranchers, farmers, hunters, workers, professionals and commuters.
Given the breadth and scope of our population and geography, it is natural that
we encounter competing organizations, bureaucracies and interests — any of
which could thwart even the best-laid plans and partnerships.
As a result, when it comes to economic
development initiatives and entrepreneurship activities, at Eastern we
sometimes see ourselves as the proverbial "Switzerland”:
a neutral third party whose goal is just to make it happen for the benefit of
our service district and larger neighboring region.
To enhance our role as a neutral-broker among
often competing interests, we have discovered that operating in the capacity of
the following five "ators” roles
allows us to promote and propel greater economic development and
Communicate as CollaborATORS
Fundamentally, entrepreneurship and economic
development are about bringing people together in collaboration. As welcome and
friendly community leaders working with existing programs, foundations and
government entities, community colleges can serve as one of the primary
community collaborators. Using transparent actions and open language to
transcend and dispel past grievances, frustrations and turf wars, community
colleges can drive and enhance collaboration. Collaborating with local business
leaders to go beyond traditional workforce development programs, community
colleges can assist in identifying the array of financing programs available to
energize these businesses’ growth. And by bringing new and emerging business
owners to the table, and introducing them to potential mentors and business
development resources, collaboration helps develop the community’s future
Action Item: Create an entrepreneurship and economic development round-table. Bring
together for regular meetings, conferences and networking:
and established business owners;
state and Federal government economic development; and
making and money lending institutions including foundations and banks.
2. Function as FacilitATORS
As facilitators, community colleges can serve as
gentle catalysts and unifying agents to mobilize economic growth and
entrepreneurship activities. This is particularly true for rural communities
that may have limited access to resources. In addition, where everyone has busy
schedules and heavy workloads, taking care of organizational details such as
arranging meetings, developing agendas, providing meeting spaces and
coordinating activities, can serve an important function in bringing
communities members together to drive entrepreneurship.
Action Item: Take your role as a collaborator to the next step by facilitating
entrepreneurship and economic development. Develop agendas and calendars, and
provide much needed meeting spaces to facilitate the entrepreneurship and
economic development activities.
3. Assemble as information as AggregATORS
These are many questions new or existing business owners may have, but
are not sure where to find the answers: Where
do I obtain funding? What are permitting or licensing fees? How can I obtain a
small business loan? Where should I locate my business? These are just a
few examples, and often the answer to any of these questions may be scattered
across a host of organizations. Community colleges, collaborating with other
agencies, organizations and foundations, can provide a "one-stop-shop” for business information, access to capital and
resources, etc. In doing so, business owners, new and existing, will come to
view the community college as a valuable partner in the development of their
Action Item: The natural outcome of serving as collaborators and facilitators is
that the community colleges will naturally come to be seen as an aggregator of
economic development and entrepreneurship resources. Developing a virtual
library of resources and directory of the various organizations with which your
community college partners, will enhance your college’s role as an aggregator
of economic development and entrepreneurship activities.
4. Incite IncubATORS and AccelerATORS
When starting or expanding a business, new and existing business
owners consider three important inputs: costs, risks and time. To the extent
that community colleges reduce any or all of these inputs, businesses will
benefit. Community colleges that start and run incubators and accelerators, can
help drive substantive business activities by reducing costs, risks and time.
Action Item: Develop programs, workshops and events that drive innovation. From
formal programs and dedicated places to mobile and virtual spaces, identify
opportunities to help businesses get off the ground.
5. Excel in as EducATORS
For entrepreneurs to thrive in community college settings, education
must go beyond traditional methods and formula. By its very nature,
entrepreneurship is a pure meritocracy, that refuses to adhere to titles,
certificates or degrees traditionally lauded in academic settings. The
community colleges are the perfect place for entrepreneurship to thrive, but
only if we can put to one side those traditional notions that accolades are the
end all and be all. Entrepreneurs care about
building successful enterprises, and so are less concerned with the academic
credentials or honors that follow their names.
Action Item: Encourage a culture of entrepreneurship within your college. Bring
together professors and employees who already own or are thinking of starting a
business, and encourage a sharing of ideas for regular meetings to increase an
entrepreneurial school mindset. Similarly, be mindful that obtaining a paper
certificate or good grades may not be the purpose of entrepreneurs: that the
development of a successful, sustainable business is more likely the end goal. As
such, community colleges should develop classes, programs and curricula to
reflect this reality.