First Posted: 3/11/2011
Robeson Community College’s Small Business Center held its fifth annual Entrepreneur’s Academy on Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 and March 4 and March 5. The academy is an intense 15-hour program that consists of seven seminars designed to prepare aspiring entrepreneurs with basic information on Starting a Small Business; Writing a Business Plan Part I; Writing a Business Plan Part II; Sales, Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing; Finding Sources of Funding; Record Keeping and Taxes; and 15 Common Mistakes That Undermine a Business. The Small Business Center covers all costs for the Entrepreneur’s Academy, thus the major investment for participants is time. In order to receive a certificate for completing the Entrepreneur’s Academy, all seven sessions must be attended.
During the five years the RCC Small Business Center has offered the academy, it has been extremely successful. According to SBC Director Bob Moore, more than 115 individuals have completed the seven seminars and been awarded Certificates of Completion. More importantly, about five or six individuals who attend the academy each year will start their own small business.
Individuals who participate in the Entrepreneur’s Academy are encouraged to schedule follow-up visits with RCC’s Small Business Center. In some cases, participants are scheduled to meet with the Project GATE counselor or a SCORE counselor at RCC. All three offices are located in RCC’s Workforce Development Center.
There were 25 participants in the 2011 Entrepreneur’s Academy, and 16 individuals completed all seven seminars. Ten of the participants have already scheduled a follow-up meeting with RCC’s SBC Director; two with the Project GATE Counselor; and two with an RCC-based SCORE Counselor.
It was quite impressive to read what participants had to say about the Entrepreneur’s Academy. One individual said, “The information I have received has been invaluable. All of the resources provided me have really helped…” Another said, “This is the most comprehensive seminar I have taken in a long time. Any person in business or trying to start a business will benefit from participating.”
One of the strong aspects of the Entrepreneur’s Academy is writing a good business plan. This year attendees have an added advantage in that they will have an opportunity to participate in a business plan competition being sponsored by the North Carolina Rural Center. The winner of the competition will be rewarded with a $5,000 prize; the second place winner a $2,500 prize; and the third place winner a $1,500 prize. Moore hopes 8 to 10 from the 2011 academy will enter the business plan competition.
The 2011 Entrepreneur’s Academy participants came from a three to four county area with most counties contiguous to Robeson. According to Moore, the one thing that would improve the academy is for someone to step forward and sponsor lunch for the participants on Saturdays.
There is considerable interest in and support of entrepreneurs at the state, national, and local levels. On the heels of the Startup America Partnership launched in early February, Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, urged policymakers to adopt specific rule changes that will accelerate economic growth through innovation and entrepreneurship.
Governor Beverly Perdue has said, “Helping small businesses compete more effectively, developing our workforce, and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship are all vital to a strong business climate.”
Locally, many small businesses have come about as a result of entrepreneurial-minded individuals. These small businesses employ people and pay taxes – both important to Robeson County. Robeson Community College is committed to offering high quality technical support for individuals interested in starting a small business. For more information about RCC’s Entrepreneur’s Academy, contact Bob Moore at 910.272.3631 or at [email protected]
— Charles V. Chrestman is the president of Robeson Community College.