For more than a year, the Small Business Development Center and the Athens Economic Development Corporation have been neighbors in the Athens Partnership Center. Earlier this year, AEDC President Brian Malone and SBDC Director Mike Ellsberry realized their services could work together.
So beginning in February, the two will pool their resources to offer a new program, and their effort will give one business venture $30,000 in startup funds and the training to give a new business owner the tools to succeed.
Malone said the AEDC has been going through a strategic planning process for the past year. During that process, the group has realized it needs to do more to encourage new small businesses in Athens. However, he said, he also wanted to include a way to train new business owners in the specifics of opening an establishment.
“We needed a way to make sure we had qualified people who wanted to begin businesses,” said Malone. “We realized that new business owners who are properly trained have a greater potential for long-term success.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of the building, the SBDC has the resources to train those who want to start a business, but relies on outside sources to fund those new ventures.
“With the economy and banking the way they are, it’s very hard to secure funding for start-ups,” said Ellsberry. The SBDC – a venture of Trinity Valley Community College, the State of Texas, and the U.S. Small Business Administration – provides consulting for new business owners and existing businesses.
Starting on February 19th, the SBDC and AEDC will offer a high-level Going into Business Seminar forsix Tuesdays. The class will run from 5:30-7 p.m.
The course, said Malone and Ellsberry, will be fast paced and will include work both inside and outside of class. Potential business owners will build a full business plan which will address virtually all the significant decisions which need to be made for a start-up.
“This class will be very intensive,” said Malone. “It will not be for the faint of heart, but will provide real training to help a new business succeed.”
At the end of the six weeks, the entrepreneurs who have attended all the classes and completed their business plans will be eligible for consideration for the grant.
The plans will be judged on several criteria, including the potential size of the businesses and if there is a market in Athens for the proposed venture.
“Will the winning business help the community grow? Will it provide a place for future residents to work in Athens?” Malone asked. “We’re looking for businesses that have a real potential to grow and meet the needs in this community.”
For a business venture to be considered, it must be located in the city of Athens and potential owners will be required to meet other criteria as well as possibly undergo a background check before being considered for the grant. Those who currently own businesses but would like to take their current venture in a radically different direction will also be considered.
The cost for the seminar will be $50. For that amount, the attendee will also receive the textbook onwhich the seminar is based, Rhonda Adams’ “Entrepreneurship, a Real World Approach,” and other materials. Attendees will also be coached by an SBDC advisor and will be expected to meet weekly with that person.
Ellsberry said he sees the joint venture being a great way to help encourage new businesses in Athens.
“We are hoping to make this a regular event,” said Ellsberry. “It’s important for us to be collaborative. We’re hoping to build Athens into the future.”
For more information and to sign up for the seminar, contact the SBDC at
903-675-6390 903-675-7403. Pre-registration is required and the deadline is Feb. 12.