Expanding entrepreneurship

By Fran LeFort

A Michigan college offers support to small business owners

Washtenaw Community College (WCC) is expanding its Entrepreneurs-In-Residence program to better meet increased needs of a growing number of small business owners.

The Entrepreneurs-In-Residence (EIR) program launched in 2019 with seasoned entrepreneurs mentoring new and prospective business owners throughout the community – offered at no charge through WCC’s Entrepreneurship Center. The number of experts has more than doubled in the two years since the program started, with nine entrepreneurs now committed to helping.

“Many customers are from the east side of the county where they may not be getting a lot of support. The Entrepreneurship Center helps them with tools to launch their businesses, but this a leveling up of services and mentoring to get them to the next step. During the pandemic this program became even more vital with specific Covid-related business support requests, and we are thrilled to see it grow to meet the high demands,” Entrepreneurship Center Director Kristin Gapske said.

In the program’s first two years, 287 EIR appointments were booked, 138 of which were hosted virtually during the 2020-2021 full-pandemic year.

Other Entrepreneurship Center services include training workshops and educational presentations, start-up research assistance, a Pitch competition and four month-long training and grant programs.

Common resources requested include idea development, funding and grant writing, marketing, industry-specific data and networking. In all, the Entrepreneurship Center saw 318 intakes, not counting market research and EIR appointments, during the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year.

“We see so many entrepreneurs filling out our intake form and requesting assistance that we need experts to take them to the next level with coaching and support in their specialties,” Gapske said.

“EIRs are sought out and are different in that they can speak to folks from a seat of experience. They have owned businesses, and most are currently still running vibrant companies. They love to transmit their knowledge to earlier-stage entrepreneurs,” she said.

The five new entrepreneurs-in-residence have expertise in HVAC/R business planning, veteran entrepreneurship, food business building, grant writing and more. They join four original experts who are knowledgeable in marketing, business planning and customer discovery, among other specialties.

This story was originally posted here.

Fran LeFort

is director of media relations at Washtenaw Community College in Michigan.