Ashley Roberts had the name set: Bridal Brilliance by Ashley. She'd filed her registration and ordered the business cards. She'd even found a way to advertise "Wedding Planner" on her car door.
All she needed was to learn how to become one.
Roberts attends a twice-weekly wedding planning class at Collin College. She's the kind of person community colleges are targeting in their continuing education programs these days – the sudden entrepreneur who has traded the uncertainty of joblessness for the risks of self-employment.
Community colleges across the country have beefed up their offerings this year as laid-off workers search for training and tips on start-up success. But entrepreneurial and career-specific classes like the one Roberts attends are particularly popular in North Texas, where small businesses remain a financially feasible option because the recession has been milder here than in most areas.
"People are frustrated with their jobs and looking for their passion," said Melissa Wagner, who teaches the new Wedding Planner class and runs her own business.
The course has almost doubled in size since it was first announced. Students wrote business plans by the second class.
Roberts, a 22-year-old who sat amid wedding invitation magazines, said she moved from Florida to Dallas this year for the self-employment possibilities. "I've been itching to come to class," she said. "Everything I read screamed fresh opportunity."
Collin College is also offering new work-focused classes in solar installation training and fashion illustration. A repeat offering, "How to Start and Operate Your Own Business" had to be closed to more students. And the school's small-business development center has seen an almost 50 percent increase in new business starts from last year.
Entrepreneurial classes are taking off nationwide in myriad versions, said Heather Van Sickle, the executive director of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship.
"There are so many options right now, it's kind of exciting," she said. A recent survey by the Massachusetts-based organization showed up to a 20 percent increase in entrepreneurial classes since last fall. Membership has increased by at least 100 members this year.
Some schools are starting to offer online entrepreneur programs; others are working with local chambers of commerce and leasing office space in their buildings.