More than 20 courses to help potential and existing business owners are now available online and free of charge through Beaufort County Community College.
The courses cover topics such as online selling, finance basics, forecasting sales, setting prices, social media marketing, hiring staff, customer relations and managing inventory, among others, that are designed to give entrepreneurs "a good introduction to the topics," said Lentz Stowe, director of BCCC's Business and Industry Services.
The courses are offered by BCCC through a partnership with Hewlett Packard and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship.
BCCC was one of several community colleges asked to pilot the courses.
They will be of particular interest to those potential and existing business owners who live at a distance from BCCC but would like more information about particular business-related topics, Stowe said.
"The beauty of this is that anyone can take these classes anywhere, at any time that is convenient for them," he said. "And they can take all of the courses or only the ones that interest them."
The courses also contain supporting materials such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or Word templates that entrepreneurs can download to help them manage cash flow, their employees or other activities, he said.
The online courses are an addition to the existing counseling services and workshops already offered free of charge by BCCC's Small Business Center.
The BCCC Small Business Center is one of 58 across North Carolina that in 2012-2013 provided entrepreneurship seminars and/or counseling to more than 50,000 individuals, resulting in 528 business start-ups and 2,967 jobs created or retained.
To access the courses, visit the N.C. Small Business Center website at https://www.ncsbc.net and follow these steps:
1. Click on the button that reads "hp LIFE On-Line Training;"
2. When the map of North Carolina appears, click on your county of residence;
3. You will be directed to the Events/Workshops Page. On this page you will see "HP Life." Click on that.
4. You will be directed to "HP LIFE Online Entrepreneurship Training," where you will be asked to register. The registration process involves several web pages. You will have to develop a password and user name.
5. Once you have registered, a page, "HP LIFE e-Learning" will appear. You can then go to the "courses" area to see what courses are currently available and choose one to study. Once you have completed the business concept and technology skill activities of that course, you can take a brief survey and receive a certificate of completion.
The courses are offered continuously on the website in sessions that last about one month. Registration for the first sessions will continue until June 30, with registration for the second sessions to begin July 1. Other sessions will continue throughout the year.
Those who register will also be linked to a network of entrepreneurs and trainers throughout the world and have access to discussion boards, profiles and mentors.
"This is an exciting aspect of the program that will appeal to many participants," Stowe said.
For more information about BCCC's Business and Industry Services, including seminars for current and prospective business owners, contact Stowe at 252-940-6306 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lauren Spruill, Customized Training coordinator, at 252-940-6311 or email@example.com . Information about upcoming workshops is available on the BCCC website at http://www.beaufortccc.edu/coned/Small%20Business/workshops.htm.