Q&A Corner: What are some good ways I can tap into my local small business community for resources?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
With this issue, we introduce a new feature in which we tap into the wisdom of our membership for answers to oft-asked questions about entrepreneurship education. If you have a question of general interest that you’d like to have answered, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The answers to our first question comes from Amy M. Pietsch, director of the Fox Valley Technical College Venture Center in Appleton, WI, and Jan W. Pagano, J.D., associate dean, Corporate & Community & Entrepreneurship Institutes, Indian River State College in Ft. Pierce, FL.
Q: What are some good ways I can tap into my local small business community for resources, funding and advice?
Amy Pietsch: We have an across-the-community approach to small business and entrepreneurship education and training at the Fox Valley Technical College Venture Center. Collaboration and partnerships are critical for tapping into resources and networks that ultimately benefit your clients, students and stakeholders.
Develop relationships throughout your region with chambers of commerce, economic and community development organizations as well as private sector service providers who work with the small business and entrepreneur segment of the market. Relationships with regional and state organizations that support entrepreneurs and small business owners are also key.
Most importantly stay focused on the core of what you do, entrepreneurship and small business education and training. When you understand your position in the marketplace and what you have to offer, then being able to collaborate, partner and work in synergy with the other players becomes a natural part of your strategy for serving your students and clients. Another big part of your ability to deliver and connect your clients and students to solutions will emerge if you offer a variety of formal and informal networking opportunities for your clients and students to connect with the people and resources they need to further their goals.
Jan Pagano: Being affiliated with an entrepreneurship center can have a tremendous impact on individuals, your institution, students and regional economy. It’s an excellent opportunity to build alliances and relationships with local businesses, chambers of commerce, economic development councils and workforce boards. These groups and associations stand to benefit tremendously from the entrepreneurial activities you conduct; this activity strengthens your local economy by assisting small businesses and entrepreneurs to be profitable and sustainable while also attracting new businesses to your area looking for the type of support you provide. Therefore, when in need for resources, funding and advice, these associations are readily available to either directly assist or refer you to someone or an entity that can.
It is imperative when seeking additional resources, funding, etc. that you stay in touch and create relationships with local successful entrepreneurs in your community. They know firsthand the trials and tribulations associated with starting a business and turning dreams into successful reality. Create awareness by publishing a monthly newsletter or simple broadcast email with news and features of your center.
Your institution’s foundation can also be instrumental in identifying potential donors that have expressed an interest in assisting your endeavors. And your grants office can assist in identifying private and public grants that are available to support your activities. Additionally, make sure your faculty, staff and administration are aware of your center. They can be an outstanding resource for you to tap into.
When looking for additional resources closely examine your center and determine what activities and programs you can publicize to maximize your exposure. Write short feature columns for your local paper or business journal; become the subject matter expert by publicizing success stories.
You can acquire and gain additional support (whether in-kind or direct) by identifying and providing resources to local industries and organizations (whether big or small) that need assistance with training. They in turn could become your greatest ‘cheerleaders’ in rallying support for launching new or maintaining existing programs. Other key partners for entrepreneurship centers are your institution’s alumni, who generally remain in your community and are willing to give back to the institution that afforded them so many opportunities.
Finally, it is crucial that you explore existing partnerships your institution has with business leaders, associations, etc. and begin to cultivate these relationships with your entrepreneurship center. These entities not only can render excellent advice but can lead you to and recommend you for local (and in some cases unknown) community grants and other opportunities available within your region.