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Excitement, Enjoyment, & Enthusiasm for Entrepreneurship in Action at Kaskaskia College

Posted By Christine Pigsley, Friday, August 29, 2014

Submitted by: Steven Groner, Director of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Success

Kaskaskia College, Centralia, Illinois

sgroner@kaskaskia.edu 

Kaskaskia College added new-for-us program delivery methods through the 2013-2014 Coleman Action Grant Project. We proposed three formats and have them all underway:

1)   Start Entrepreneur Clubs in two rural towns

2)   Deliver a concentrated, 16-hour business skill Summer Bootcamp

3)   Launch a CEO Roundtable targeted at 2nd tier companies- those having successfully progressed beyond startup

Each program has produced its’ own set of lessons learned and made our school stronger. As a result, we have increased our engagement with the entrepreneurs of our region. Our team wanted to share the experiences of one “E-club”- the one established in Salem, Illinois (population 7,500) last January. We have completed our eighth monthly meeting and can happily report on the growth and synergy of the group. In fact, you can follow the club on Facebook- Salem, IL Entrepreneur Club. You will find excitement, enjoyment and enthusiasm present.

EXCITEMENT:The group has two future-looking projects… tabletop displays at the Spring 2015 grand opening of a city walking trail, also a Christmas in July event for next Summer. We have a resource sharing/book lending meeting element that really opens up conversations too.

ENJOYMENT:We agree completely with Amy Schulz’s Feather River blog of a few months ago, where she observed “Listen to your entrepreneurs and don’t feel like you have to plan every minute. Build the framework for meetings, book the space, provide food, get out of the way and LISTEN.” The Kaskaskia College educational content for the meetings is brief and includes either a motivational video or an in-person guest speaker on a group requested topic. Our Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has donated interesting books that are used to reward those who “bring a friend”.

ENTHUSIASM:In addition to a club member starting our Facebook page, we have multiple volunteers each month that want to share their business story with the group. A “home run” for this club was catching the Salem Mayor’s interest. John Raymer has been a vocal supporter of the club and he sends his citizens our way. The E-club has expanded the Mayor’s vision of what our College can do for his community.

LESSONS LEARNED:

1.   It takes a core group of 15 to 20 club members to reach a sustainable inertia. We did not have this size initially so perseverance and follow up have been needed. Summer schedules are a challenge for all, yet we now have over 25 members. Keep prospecting!

2.   Involvement from diverse constituents and community groups is essential. For instance in our 2nd E-club, we are still hoping for a community champion or two. Have confidence and continue to press on.

3.   Allow the group to evolve and build its’ own personality. The first few meetings deviated from agendas and recent sessions are less structured. You are onto something when sessions are productive and group chemistry is building.

4.   Follow the Feather River College (California) philosophy of listening more and the college talking less!

5.   Make certain that your College commitment is sustained, supportive and long term if you want to earn community support.

6.   Proactively welcome participants and provide encouragement. Some entrepreneurs approached the initial club meetings with trepidation and are now actively contributing members.

Tags:  Coleman Foundation  community college  entrepreneurship  NACCE 

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NACCE - SAM'S CLUB SHARED VISION: When Shared Vision= Shared Success

Posted By Amy M. Pietsch, Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shared Vision =  Shared Success

Amy Pietsch, Director

FVTC Venture Center

www.venturecenterwi.biz

 

Fox Valley Technical College’s (FVTC) Venture Center unveiled its newest business training to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, Marketing Made Lean, in March. The Venture Center is a leading entrepreneurship and small business center helping people to launch and grow their small businesses and entrepreneurial firms via targeted business training. The new series, Marketing Made Lean, has been designed to create results-driven marketing for micro and small businesses and enables us to increase entrepreneurs’ engagement with FVTC and the Venture Center. This series is an example of the Venture Center’s work in continuing to engage in the development and expansion of micro and small businesses in our region and beyond.

FVTC received funding as a participant in the 2014 NACCE-Sam’s Club Shared Vision for Small Business cohort. This funding enabled us to create and deliver a training solution to solve a problem area for small businesses: marketing. According to a recent Sam’s Club survey, marketing was one of the key challenges inhibiting greater small business success nationwide. As part of the commitment to the Shared Vision cohort, FVTC’s goal is to serve small businesses with knowledge about and participation in Marketing Made Lean through 2014.

The series pairs solid marketing fundamentals with the latest in tools, resources and professional insight in four workshops, each lasting four hours. Sessions are offered at FVTC campuses in Appleton, Oshkosh, Waupaca and in Green Bay through E-Hub. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and Gateway Technical College are also partnering with FVTC and offering Marketing Made Lean in their service areas. Additional partners include Small Business Development Centers located at University of Wisconsin campuses in Oshkosh, Green Bay and Stevens Point. So often marketing programs are theoretical in nature. Our experience indicates that sustainable business success happens when training is concentrated on local markets and consists of real-life strategies that are possible to implement. Partnerships that allow us to share our wins and meet challenges helps all of us reach and serve more businesses.

Marketing Made Lean is challenging and it’s different, due to its pragmatic design incorporating marketing fundamentals with the latest in marketing insight and tools from today’s business thought leaders such as Alex Osterwalder, David Madie and Barry Moltz. Additionally, nine marketing experts from throughout Wisconsin and beyond, are featured during the monthly, marketing call-in session. These speakers represent marketing disciplines including branding, strategy, design, advertising, digital media and public relations. Our experts provide cutting-edge advice that works for people who are challenged with working on the day-to-day needs of their business, most of them are also entrepreneurs and have an affinity for understanding challenges faced by small businesses who may not have any marketing background.

 

Elements of the series include facilitation in key areas of marketing:

·         Linking business purpose with a strategic vision

·         Positioning your product/service within targeted marketing channels

·         Creating  customer relationships through service and feedback

·         Creating a budget that is can be implemented and is measurable

 

The series is priced at $249.00 and if participants are willing to complete a full grant application they can participate for $199.00 per person. Marketing Made Lean is an entry-level product for us at the FVTC Venture Center. The affordable price point, depth of interaction and application of marketing concepts during the sessions, combined with the tools and resources provided, make it an easy “yes” for business owners. Once we are able to engage and assist them during Marketing Made Lean, they are eager to learn about our other products, services and coaching that can help them.

From the beginning of this process at the NACCE 2013 Annual Conference through today, one of our biggest resources and supporters who is helping provide insight and ideas to ensure our success with this grant is NACCE Fellow Tim Putnam. Tim is patiently guiding us as we navigate and deliver on this opportunity. He is a passionate and talented economic development practitioner who understands the reality of having to operate an entrepreneurship center that drives economic development in its service area while also driving revenue to the college.

As with any new product launch, driving awareness and purchase of the workshop is our biggest challenge. Our extensive partnerships, executing our own marketing plan and mining community connections is helping us meet those challenges. To date, hundreds of people have learned about Marketing Made Lean, 40+ micro and small business owners have enrolled and participated in the offering, with momentum growing and results starting to emerge. Based on comments like these from participants, we’re excited to have an offering that will be in our repertoire for a while:

· “Great tools, I can’t wait to use them and make marketing something that is an integral part of our business.” –Seminar Participant April 2014

· “Very good. Really got me thinking about our current marketing and sparked ideas.” –Seminar Participant April 2014

·  “Very impressed with the quality of the program. Every small business owner should take it to get a better understanding of marketing.” –Seminar Participant April 2014

 

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact me at pietsch@fvtc.edu. I’d enjoy sharing our process and steps to creating non-credit, professional development training that drive business launches/expansions in the communities you serve and revenue for your College. Are you offering non-credit training for businesses in your area? I’d love to connect and learn what’s working for you!

 

 

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NACCE - SAM'S CLUB SHARED VISION: Maximizing Online Presence in Southwestern West Virginia’s Tourism Industry – Lessons in E-commerce

Posted By Jackie Whitley, Friday, August 15, 2014

Maximizing Online Presence in Southwestern West Virginia’s Tourism Industry – Lessons in E-commerce


Submitted by Jackie Whitley, Workforce Director

Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College

jackie.whitley@southernwv.edu


“I have a website, but it hasn’t helped my business.” “I can’t take reservations or payments online.” “I don’t have an availability calendar on my website for my lodging business, so I ask customers to call with desired dates.” “I’m not sure I even need a website or social media.” “I’m just not technical.” These are the types of responses many small business operators serving the growing Hatfield McCoy multi-county ATV trail system in southwest West Virginia gave when asked how they were using the internet to market and conduct their tourism-related business.

 

To help entrepreneurs overcome these types of success barriers, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College partnered with NACCE through a Sam’s Club Shared Vision Grant to provide an internet marketing workshop called “5 Strategies to Promote and Grow Your Business Online – Turn Clicks into Customers.” Additional assistance was leveraged through the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey’s Broadband Technical Assistance Grant program which enabled the workshop to be offered at locations in six counties throughout our mountainous region.

One of the growing efforts to diversify the economy of the southern West Virginia coalfields is through the tourism industry. A major economic development driver is the Hatfield McCoy Trails which are comprised of over 700 miles of trails for recreational off-highway vehicles. Entrepreneurial opportunities abound for lodging, food, equipment, tours, adventure, heritage, theater, and artisan businesses to serve visitors to the region. Although the workshop was open to any type of business, the content was geared toward those operating a business or wanting to start a business serving the trail system.

Some of the workshop content included:

  • Why Even Have a Web Presence? Every search starts online
  • Your Website MUST DO Something-generate leads, sales, support, branding, trust
  • Calculate ROI
  • Legal Issues
  • Design for Your Visitors – People scan, bite-sized, video
  • The Tourism Goal: Book! – Visual, descriptions, call to action, testimonials
  • Take Reservations Online - Options
  • Understanding Search - How search engines work
  • How to Rank Well on Google 
  • Goals for Social Media – Interact, “Top of Mind Awareness”, promote expertise
  • Online Travel Sites
  • Your Online Reputation

This material was delivered in a practical, no-nonsense, non-technical manner to help participants gain a good understanding of how internet marketing can work well. The workshop was also very conversational with attendees actively participating.

Our training was developed through a regional approach. Each county in southwestern West Virginia is actively involved in economic development activities on its own and sometimes views each other as competitors for resources and visitors. Recently, however, entities have begun working together as a team on regional economic development projects including this e-commerce training project. The project advisory team was comprised of representatives from economic development authorities, chambers of commerce, tourism authorities, business services agencies, and business owners throughout a six county area. As a result, 93 small business owners, employees, and other individuals attended the workshops. Twenty-one business owners received one-on-one follow-up marketing consultations with a trainer. Both the workshop and consultation evaluations were extremely positive. Without this regional team approach and personal marketing and outreach efforts of team members, this project would not have been nearly as successful.

The main takeaways for the success of this inaugural training project were to:

  • Continue to approach projects, issues, and problems with a regional engagement of partners.
  • Form a marketing subcommittee on day one. Develop a project marketing plan, timeline, and stick to it. Get your marketing materials out early.
  • Particularly in rural areas, personal outreach and recruitment such as site visits and phone calls to talk with business owners and personally distribute marketing materials was key to increasing pre-registrations. People will more likely attend if they know how something can benefit them.
  • Keep the training content relevant, practical, and non-technical. Give participants internet marketing and e-commerce information they can understand, immediately use, and know what their next steps should be.
  • Follow-up contact with participants and information on future learning opportunities are essential to keep the entrepreneurial momentum going.

For more information about this project or Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, please call Allyn Sue Barker at 304-896-7404, allyn.barker@southernwv.edu or Jackie Whitley at 304-896-7440, jackie.whitley@southernwv.edu.

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Houston Community College Strengthens Internal and External Alliances With Coleman Grant

Posted By Christine Pigsley, Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Submitted by: Sandra Louvier, Director, Center for Entrepreneurship, Houston Community College, HCC NW  (2013/2014 Coleman Grant Awardee, NACCE Membership Ambassador, AACC Slingshot College) 

Houston Community College’s 2013/2014 Coleman Foundation Grant Project has been dedicated to Creating and Expanding Internal and External Teams Dedicated to Entrepreneurship.  In the past seven years our partnerships have been highly effective and dynamic and they have allowed us to grow our entrepreneurial offerings.  With our grant activities we sought to deepen our partnerships by creating an Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Consortium made up of internal and external partners. We collaborated to plan and hold five events as follows:  1) Business Plan Competition Reception, 2) Grow Through Exporting Seminar, 3) Enterprise Skills Faculty Development Workshop, 4) Small Business Growth Summit and 5) Veteran Entrepreneurship Workshop.  Our activities also served to increase entrepreneurs’ engagement at HCC, leverage both college and community assets and create buzz and broad exposure of HCC’s commitment to entrepreneurship.  

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Consortium & Five Fabulous Events The EEDC was convened early in the grant timeline, broke into collaborative committees for event planning and the EEDC convenes again in August to wrap up grant activities and plan for the future.  The Business Plan Competition Reception was held in January in collaboration with some of our closest and most long-standing partners and served as a feeder event into the Business Plan Competition which is a working competition held from January through April each year. The EEDC met in February and included internal reps from varying HCC entrepreneurial initiatives (Office of Entrepreneurial Initiatives, 10,000 Small Businesses, Minority Business Development Agency, International Business and Entrepreneurship faculty).   External Partners included the SBA, SCORE, banks, local chamber and economic development council, Newspring (Business Plan Competition partner), local entrepreneurs and others.  We proceeded to plan and hold additional grant events in March, April and May and another is planned in August.   

Business Plan Competition Reception  01/09/14:  Past Contestants, BPC Leaders and Prize Sponsors gathered to mix and mingle with Applicants for the 2014 Competition at Wallis State Bank.  BPC leaders spoke of things to come in the 2014 competition and past contestants gave testimonials about how the competition propelled them forward.  The event strengthened our applicant pool and helped lead to our best competition ever!  Check out our photos:  https://plus.google.com/photos/117725629534571468084/albums/5969367356903362577 

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Consortium (EEDC Mtg) 02/26/14:  Dr. Zachary Hodges, President, HCC NW welcomed an outstanding team of internal and external partners to the Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Consortium held at HCC Spring Branch on February 26.  Top leadership support continued throughout the entire grant period in that Zach Hodges, Maya Durnovo (Chief Entrepreneurial Initiatives Officer –HCC District) and Evelyn Velasquez (Interim Dean of Workforce & Economic Development, HCC NW) supported and played roles in the planning and execution of every grant event.   Check out our photos: https://plus.google.com/photos/117725629534571468084/albums/5986726293210428721

Grow Through Exporting  03/21/14:  The registrant list was as follows: 56 small business owners, 10 small business employees, 31 Students, 40 aspiring exporters, and 3 graduates of 10,000 Small Businesses, including 20 business owners doing over $150,000 in revenues, 22 already exporting & 52 who indicated specific products they want to begin exporting.  All made great connections for follow-up with presenters from the Department of Commerce-International Trade Association, Small Business Administration, HCC International Business Dept., HCC Entrepreneurship, Export-Import Bank and Wallis State Bank.  Each attendee chose next Action Steps to pursue their exporting goals.  Check out our photos:  https://plus.google.com/photos/117725629534571468084/albums/5993700898163629665 

Power of Choice – Faculty Development Workshop   HCC faculty joined Professor Linda Koffel for a thought provoking seminar on “Enterprise Skills: The New Survival Mindset.”  Koffel stated “Entrepreneurial skills are the survival skills of the new economic environment including the ability to direct one’s fate, to create one’s future, to develop one’s talents and potential.  The new survival skills all revolve around one major trait — controlling one’s own fate through creative problem solving, persistence, risk taking, being proactive, educating oneself and gaining the appropriate knowledge to reach goals.”  HCC faculty from across the system gathered to share and brainstorm about how they teach students 21st Century enterprise skills in academic and workforce classes.  Instructors participated in interactive exercises, shared creative lessons and inspired each other as they planned new lessons for fall classes.  Check out our photos:   https://plus.google.com/photos/117725629534571468084/albums/6002132610087904913 

Small Business Growth Summit  HCC surrounded entrepreneurs with the might of the Houston entrepreneurial eco-system on May 16 at the Spring 2014 Small Business Summit.  The purpose:  Ignite entrepreneurial thinking through owners, leaders and employees as the catalyst that will drive 21st Century economic growth. Keynote speakers Liz Townsend and Anthony Milton grew My Fit Foods into a national chain and these serial entrepreneurs are now launching and/or growing multiple concepts.  The platform: inspiring, insightful, interactive presentations, panels and workshops and networking with empowering resource partners.  The auditorium was filled with nearly 100 existing and aspiring entrepreneurs who benefited from the 16 experts featured on the agenda and from networking with representatives of 20 resource support partners from the Houston entrepreneurial eco-system.  Check out our photos: https://plus.google.com/photos/117725629534571468084/albums/6017733677951544657  

Veteran Entrepreneurship Workshop  For Veterans who want to start a small business and for Veterans who are Solopreneurs or Micro-Entrepreneurs and want to grow. Presentations: HCC Center for Entrepreneurship and HCC Admissions Adviser/Counselor., SBA, SCORE, Women Veterans Business Center.  Progressive Roundtables - Featuring Veteran Entrepreneurs and Veteran Instructors (5 Tables).  Each Veteran Entrepreneur leader leads a table by talking about past success as an entrepreneur and their business and/or ties to HCC Entrepreneurship (BPC or class, etc.) for 5-7 minutes, and then leaders takes Q&A from those at the table for 7-10 minutes for a total of 15 minutes at the roundtable. The bell rings and each leader moves to the next table and does the same thing with a new table of attendees for the next 15 minutes.  This will repeat for five 15-minute intervals. Lunch and Exhibitor Networking What NACCE resources are helping you reach these goals?  

Key Takeaways: 
NACCE/Coleman Foundation’s Community of Practice benefitted us greatly. Monthly group calls allowed the eleven winning colleges to share best practices and helped us resolve some challenges and avert others.  One-on-one calls with the NACCE appointed EICA leader who was also a former grant recipient college helped colleges understand and meet grant requirements. One example: we expanded  our internal and external partner list to include more knowing that some might not be able to attend EEDC meetings but would appreciated being included and that they would collaborate via phone and through one-on-one meetings when necessary. 

Survey and Measure Before and After. On-Line Registration form for events can be leveraged to collect meaningful data for target audience and build a database for future related events.  If enough information is collected up front, the college can market to attendees and no shows for future events.  Although time consuming, measurement can lead to more business and opportunities later. 

Be Willing to Adapt Plans as good feedback and advice comes in from internal and external partners.  Example, we revised our Small Business Summit to showcase HCC’s wide breadth of entrepreneurial initiatives, rather than focusing solely on start-ups and micro entrepreneurs as initially planned. We created sub-committee planning meetings between events to stay focused on specific goals.  We adjusted dates to accommodate internal and external partner needs.  

Collaborative Promotion Builds Success. External and internal partner alliances to promote events to our databases built registration and attendance and celebrated our success internally and externally to the broader business community. 

Tags:  Coleman Foundation  economic development  entrepreneurship  Houston Community College  NACCE 

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Listen to Your Entrepreneurs and Don’t Feel Like You Have to Plan Every Minute

Posted By Christine Pigsley, Monday, June 30, 2014
Updated: Monday, June 30, 2014
Submitted by Amy Schulz, Director of Career and Technical Education, Economic Workforce Development
Feather River College
aschulz@frc.edu  

Feather River College received a Coleman Entrepreneurship in Action Grant at the 2013 NACCE Conference to Increase Entrepreneurs' Engagement in Community Colleges through an entrepreneurship succession planning and internship project. Since this was a grant-funded project, we initially thought the activities should be very structured and planned. It doesn’t always work that way in entrepreneurship. We learned that entrepreneurs enjoy the space to be able to reflect. Monthly planning meetings turned into a time of reflection and wonderful unexpected collaborations across sectors. Our advice for engaging entrepreneurs from the community: Build the framework for meetings, book the space, provide food, get out of the way and LISTEN.

So, here is the story of one of our program participants so you can see what it really means to engage with your entrepreneurs and be ready to take the journey with them.

Roxanne Valladao is a living legend in Plumas County. As executive director of Plumas Arts, she is known for bringing in top notch talent to perform in rural and remote Plumas County for over 30 years. Under her leadership at Plumas Arts, she has saved a 150 year-old theatre which earns revenue from playing first run feature films while serving as the cultural heart of community and a venue for live performances. She converted a run-down dive bar on Main Street into a beautiful gallery and retail space, providing entrepreneurial opportunities for local artisans. Her efforts in promoting the arts as a key to cultural and economic development have not gone unnoticed. Tiny Plumas Arts is one of the highest ranking arts commissions in the whole state of California.  When Roxanne and board president, Kara Rockett, participated in the Feather River College Business Succession Pilot, funded by the Coleman Foundation, folks became concerned. Rumors swirled around town. “Is Roxanne retiring?”  “What is Plumas Arts going to do without her?” “Are we still going to get the great talent to come to Quincy?”

Roxanne just turned 60, and she is planning to retire in the next 2-5 years, but not now. The Business Succession Planning pilot was the perfect opportunity to explore succession and to be proactive about how the torch is passed. Like many entrepreneurs, Roxanne has poured her heart and soul into Plumas Arts, building an organization over decades and sustaining it during lean times. Plumas Arts is very personal to her—it is her legacy. It’s not so easy to hand over to just anyone, and it’s not so easy to think about either. After some prompting from the state arts commission, which ranked Plumas Arts as excellent in every category except in succession planning, Roxanne decided to jump on board the Feather River College project.

The Business Succession Planning pilot combines the resources of the college’s entrepreneurship program with those of the internship program. By pairing student mentees with established mentors, the process could be facilitated and documented through the infrastructure of the college programs.  After enrolling in the internship class, Kara as board president was in a good position to participate as a mentee. Kara brings in the perspective and practical concerns of the board and to understand what needs to happen for an eventual transition. Kara could possibly be Roxanne’s successor when and if the time is right. Together Roxanne and Kara have explored delicate issues, such as staffing on a budget and transferring institutional knowledge that Roxanne and her veteran staff know innately. They have also faced the emotional side of succession together. Kara’s sensitivity and good intentions have made this a welcome and joyous process for Roxanne, which she was originally dreading.  

An unexpected benefit of this pairing has been their influence in the community. Just the fact that Roxanne was participating got the community to take notice. What started as concern for the future of Plumas Arts has turned into a healthy dialogue around the future of our local economy and the number of aging entrepreneurs. Who will be the next generation and take over established and beloved businesses and organizations, from non-profits to appliance repair? The magic of the grapevine has been the most powerful marketing tool, and entrepreneurs have approached the team at Feather River College for help with their succession planning. After reviewing and documenting the results of this pilot which included a total of three mentor/mentee pairings, Feather River College and NACCE are releasing a video to share this and more results from our project as well as making information available through our website. In addition, we are planning to continue this project in the Fall 2014 Semester through internships. For more information, please contact Amy Schulz at aschulz@frc.edu. 

Tags:  Coleman Foundation  community college  economic development  entrepreneurship  Feather River College  NACCE  Plumas Arts  succession planning 

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KEEPING ENTREPRENEURS ENGAGED ONLINE WITH VENTURE HIGHWAY

Posted By Barbara Hall, Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Barbara L. Hall
Director, Small Business Center
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College


At the Small Business Center at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, we serve approximately 500 small business owners through seminars and courses each year, and another 120 through direct services, including counseling and referrals to partner organizations. As part of the North Carolina Small Business Center Network, our objective is to “increase the success rate and the number of viable small businesses in North Carolina by providing high quality, readily accessible assistance to prospective and existing small business owners which will lead to job creation and retention.” Each Small Business Center within the Network is a community-based provider of education and training, counseling, referral and information, and since we are state-funded, we are able to provide these services for free, which is a huge benefit for our local entrepreneurs.

But even when classes and services are free, it can be hard to keep participants motivated. We get a lot of interest, a lot of sign-ups, but in the end, it can be difficult for busy business owners to finish our longer courses – especially when they are online, and interaction is limited. And we know we can’t just give up offering online training, because our clientele need the flexibility. So we had a challenge: find an online resource that had ease of use, a choice of modules, was customizable, was highly interactive, and enabled our instructors to “jump in” and stay in contact with the students throughout the course.

In our research, we met Neil Gilbert and Venture Highway. We decided to adopt Venture Highway as our new online resource because it met all of the above requirements AND its Venture Accelerator curriculum covers Business Model Canvas, which is a critical need with our clients. In my next blog, I’ll talk more about the training needs of small business owners in our territory, and how we’re meeting those needs at our Small Business Center.

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NACCE - Sam's Club Shared Vision

Posted By Tiffany B. Scott, Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Lessons Learned from Selling to the World

Existing and aspiring small business owners operating in today’s economy have a distinct advantage over their predecessors, namely the ability to utilize the Internet to inexpensively and effectively market their products and services to a global audience. Where only a few years ago small business owners were restricted to local sales, the advent of e-commerce has unlocked doors that not long ago would have been impossible to open.

 

Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC), utilizing funding from a Sam’s Club Shared Vision Grant, recently teamed up with NACCE and other economic development partners to host the first ever Selling to the World Expo in Middlesboro, Ky.

The expo was held over two days on May 15-16 and served as a training session to help small business owners learn how to harness the power of the Web to sell their products to statewide, national, or even global customers.

 

Nearly 100 people from several counties in Kentucky and Tennessee attended sessions covering a variety of topics, from Web design for small businesses and basic bookkeeping, to learning how to ship products across the globe.

 

Other session topics during the two-day conference included:

  • Small Business 101

  • Social Media for Business Growth/ E-Commerce

  • Doing Business with the Government

  • Creating a Winning Business Plan

  • Tapping Into Export Marketing

  • How to Patent Your Product or Idea

  • Fulfillment by Amazon

  • Capital Business Loans

  • USDA Food Sale Guidelines 

  • From Hobby to Profit 

  • QuickBooks

 

The Selling to the World Expo benefited not only small businesses that may be struggling to build an online presence, but also crafters and artisans who spend their weekends selling items locally. The event taught these sellers how to compete online and use various Internet tools and strategies to build their businesses, expand their markets, and boost profits.

 

Planning the expo took many hours in the months leading up to the event. Once the grant application was approved, the college first had to identify and sell the concept to key partner agencies that remain prepared to assist small businesses in all phases of their operation. Partners included the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, and Kentucky Small Business Development Corporation.

 

Our partnership with NACCE also paid dividends as we gained valuable knowledge through monthly conference calls and learned how other colleges were utilizing their own grant funds. The SmartSheet feature served as a great place to post examples of event documents for sharing among each participating colleges.

 

NACCE fellows helped develop ideas throughout the planning process, while NACCE branding guidelines, along with those provided by Sam’s Club Giving, proved helpful during the marketing phase.

 

Once the partnerships were in place, we worked to identify our target audience – who in our local communities would be interested in learning the things we hoped to teach. And just as importantly, we decided precisely the information we wanted to present and obtained commitments from presenters who would be volunteering their time over these two days.

 

Because we had the support of the college, along with our partners and industry leaders, we were able to market and host the expo rather inexpensively. In addition to a limited television ad buy, we engaged media throughout the region, which in turn resulted in published press releases and an appearance on WYMT-TV’s weekly “Issues & Answers” program, which is broadcast across Eastern Kentucky as well as parts of West Virginia and Tennessee.

 

We are currently looking to make the Selling to the World Expo an annual event, and there were several lessons we can take from this inaugural experience. First, any subsequent events should likely be held on the weekend. It was difficult for small business owners to give up two full weekdays to attend sessions.

 

Additionally, our target audience should not necessarily be the traditional small business owner with a storefront in downtown, but should include artisans and crafters who sell at roadside markets and regional festivals – essentially anyone with something to sell. This was something we learned early on and were able to incorporate into this year’s expo.

 

Marketing will remain an important factor in making future events a success, and establishing a marketing team is something that should happen on the first day of planning. Future strategies must include face-to-face interaction with small business owners, in addition to securing speaking engagements with area chambers of commerce and community service organizations such as Rotary.

 

Finally, we should locate and reserve keynote speakers early, and offer every session twice if doing concurrent session so that everyone has an opportunity to attend those sessions.

 

 

Throughout the process of planning and hosting Selling to the World, we learned of a surprising number of small businesses in our region that do not have an online presence simply because the idea of it overwhelms the owners. People sometimes need motivation, encouragement, and professional development. We hope we were able to provide that during these two days of instruction, and we hope to continue to foster that development in the years to come.

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Coleman Entrepreneurial College In Action

Posted By Emily Sisk, Thursday, May 01, 2014

Cleveland Community College Walks the Talk When it Comes to Entrepreneurship in Action  

Emily Sisk, Grants Development Coordinator

Cleveland Community College, Shelby, North Carolina

(2013 Coleman Action Grant Awardee)

Cleveland Community College is a member of the 2013 Coleman Action Grantees and our goal in this project has been to strengthen the internal and external teams dedicated to entrepreneurship, map resources for entrepreneurs, and increase enrollment and participation in Entrepreneurship courses, workshops, and events.   

We are finding that the NACCE resources, including the member portal of the website, are excellent resources for instructors. We participated in the NACCE Summit at Catawba Valley Community College (Hickory, NC) in June of 2013, as well as a follow-up visit to CVCC in July for informal benchmarking. We also found a wealth of resources at the 2013 NACCE Conference in Charlotte. The monthly community of practice conference calls have helped share best practices and understanding of the dynamics of community college systems beyond our state and region. Great things are happening in community colleges throughout the country!  

Our process to execute our project has been both focused and rewarding! But it didn’t just start with the grant, our staff spent several years preparing including:

  • Mapping resources available through NACCE and other channels
  • Visiting colleges and communities with proven track records in entrepreneurship development
  • Developing events within the community to foster awareness of entrepreneurship resources available to support entrepreneurial investigation 

We also improved communication between continuing education (non-credit), the Small Business Center, and our curriculum programs at CCC that has created an opportunity to develop stackable, articulated certificate options for students. We now have partnerships with Gardner-Webb University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Ethics and the Cleveland County K-12 Schools Entrepreneurship programs that creates a continuum of education in Entrepreneurship.  

In less than a year we have identified needed programmatic improvements including reevaluating the Entrepreneur certificate and improving enrollment in respective courses. We are also exploring the possibility for articulated credit from the Small Business Center seminars to credit-based business programs.   

It is really too early to say definitively what has worked or not worked. But we are really excited about our Entrepreneurship Expo, which takes place on April 30th. The event brings together entrepreneur and small business support vendors, includes panel discussions, entrepreneurship and innovation speakers, and a “FastPitch” competition for high school and college teams for a cash prize to help in growing their idea(s)!  

A key lesson learned through this project is that coordinating entrepreneurs and developing programs/resources to support entrepreneurial growth is itself an activity that requires entrepreneurial-type thinking and strategy. Our efforts are bringing excitement and a renewed focus on entrepreneurism in Cleveland County (NC).  

If you foster relationships, bring key community leaders and successful entrepreneurs into the fold you can achieve the right mix of resources and create opportunities for those with the passion and drive to initiate and act upon innovative ideas, business models, and business development. So, go out there and make it happen in your community!

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NACCE - Sam's Club Shared Vision for Small Business

Posted By Mike Daniel, Monday, April 21, 2014

"Who is My Customer?"

Mike Daniel is the Director of the Small Business Development Center at Long Beach City College and established entrepreneur of everything sweet!

As the director of a busy business development center, the most common phrase I hear from small business owners is, “Everyone is my customer.”  Business owners say this when they are really not sure who their target market is or how to reach them.  Many of these businesses simply open their doors every morning and hope that someone finds them!

Long Beach City College’s Small Business Development Center has partnered with NACCE through the Sam’s Club Shared Vision grant to create a subsidized three-day training program targeting small businesses generating between $100,000 to $300,000 in annual sales. This seminar series helps small business owners identify their target markets and educates them on how to reach them and turn them into customers. Each session takes abstract concepts like the “80/20 rule” and turns them into practical and targeted marketing efforts focusing on the customers that generate the most sales for their business.

Since no business is the same, there is no generic marketing plan or template that we can give a small business owner to become successful.  However, we have found success in having the business owners identify their unique and specific target markets and the one or two channels they need to pursue to attract those targets to their business.  We have then followed that up with one-on-one business advising through our Small Business Development Center to help each business owner individually implement his or her new strategy, while creating specific and measurable goals to track their progress.

The key takeaway for this program is that to be successful, the seminar has to be less academic and more practical.  To that end, we created a simple goal/strategy worksheet for each business owner. The worksheet helps business owners to formulate a specific goal for the business, such as increasing revenue by 20% or attracting 200 new fans to a Facebook page.  The next step is to identify the appropriate marketing channels for that particular goal and the distinct and measurable actions that are required. The last step focuses on the criteria by which success will be measured so that they can track their progress toward successfully implementing their marketing campaign.

The fact that most business owners think their target market is everyone is a major reason why most businesses struggle to attract new customers or increase the amount spent by their current customers.  The overall goal of the Long Beach City College Shared Vision grant is to give each business owner a simple and practical plan to identify each business’ unique target market.  The Small Business Development Center then helps these business owners to put their targeted marketing plan in place with expert, hands-on assistance.  Through this small business program, business owners no longer have to sit around hoping someone will find them or waste time and money targeting “everyone”; they can actively seek more of that special 20% that will grow their business.

Long Beach City College is one of seven community colleges granted a NACCE Shared Vision grant sponsored by Sam’s Club.  The Shared Vision grant is aimed at helping improve and increase revenues for small and micro-sized businesses in each of the seven grantees communities.  LBCC is addressing NACCE‘s Presidents for Entrepreneurship (PFEP) initiative by leveraging both community college and community assets to spur innovation and job creation.  For any questions related to this program or to learn more about what Long Beach City College is doing for entrepreneurship, please feel free to call or e-mail Mike Daniel at (562) 938-5115 or mike.daniel@lbcc.edu.

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Coleman Entrepreneurial College in Action

Posted By Carla Hixson, Monday, April 07, 2014

Carla Hixson, Associate Vice President for Continuing Education, Training and Innovation

Bismarck State College, North Dakota (2013 Coleman Action Grants Awardee)

 

Bismarck State College (BSC) has established an Office of Innovation as a way to foster a culture of innovation campus wide. These practices can be applied to creating a culturally rich entrepreneurial community as well.

In 2007, we implemented the Office of Innovation with the mission to create a culture of innovation for faculty, staff and students.  Innovation at BSC must be employee driven, so it became important to approach this new culture as an organizational change. BSC made changes that were clearly connected to our culture not only in operations, systems, and procedures but it also tied innovation to our campus strategies, values, mission, and vision.  We used three talking points to communicate that innovation was part of this cultural change on campus.

  1.  Innovation is important to BSC and to you,
  2.  Innovation is everybody’s job, and
  3.  Innovation can be learned.

This same cultural change approach can be used to incorporate entrepreneurship into your campus and community and our 2013 Coleman Action Grant project is an extension of this in that we are working to Create or Expand Internal & External Teams Dedicated to Entrepreneurship.  But before you embark on a series of activities or program you must ask yourself “is your organization ready?” On a continuum, assess whether “your organization wants to be entrepreneurial” on one end to “your organization is entrepreneurial” on the other end. In helping you assess, ask yourself, do you have operations, systems, and procedures that prevent or discourage entrepreneurial behaviors? Or do you have operations, systems, and procedures that encourage or require entrepreneurial behaviors?

If you have operations, systems, and procedures that prevent or discourage entrepreneurial behavior you can begin to change the culture within your organization along four distinct and important levels. At each level you address the ability to “impact” the organization’s capability to change culturally. The higher the levels number the more impact the activities will have on the organization. That said, the lower the number the easier it is to implement within the organization with relatively minimal time commitment.

Here’s our advice and some potential activities to consider at each level:

Level One: Environment

·         Developing goals and measurements specific to operations, policies and procedures that reinforce desired changes.

·         Establish a physical environment that reinforces the changes.

Examples include: leadership commitment to entrepreneurship announcement, a “kick off” event and a campus wide project.

 

Level Two: Work Structure

·         Establish an organizational structure that will reinforce operational changes.

·         Eliminate rules and policies that hinder performance of new methods and procedures.

·         Create new rules and policies that reinforce entrepreneurship activities

Examples include: an operationally “flat” campus, employee empowerment training, implementation of LEAN office, establish a process to bring ideas forward beyond traditional budgeting process.

 

Level Three: Interpersonal Behaviors

Activities to consider:

·         Replace current training with training that reinforces desired behaviors.

·         Develop goals and measurements that reinforce the desired behaviors and provide rewards.

·         Publicly recognize and reward employees who change.

·         Develop new rewards and recognition that reinforce the desired ways of operating.

·         Establish ceremonies and events that reinforce new ways of doing things, such as awards ceremonies and recognition events for teams and employees who achieve goals or successfully implement changes.

Examples include: training, a certification program, incorporating expected behaviors into job descriptions and performance reviews, entrepreneurship ceremony with individual and team recognition and awards.

Level Four: Values & Norms

Activities to consider:

·         Develop new customs and norms that reinforce the new ways.

·         Incorporate communication that reinforces the new customs and norms.

·         Use multiple channels of communication to deliver consistent messages before, during and after changes are made.

Examples include: An annual dashboard report, individual employees recognizing others for entrepreneurship activities, regular updates to administration and through internal campus communications, and establishment of an external advisory group.

 

Through our journey in campus-wide entrepreneurship, we’ve learned that change within an organization takes time. Activities at each level provide a way for individuals to see entrepreneurial success in the short run and into the future. By applying these same principles to entrepreneurship, it can become an integral part of any culture.

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