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Center offers entrepreneurs advice on how to be successful

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 15, 2012 1:46 PM

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Wayne Community College Small Business Center director Renita Dawson works with Quinton Pridgen on a small business plan for his mobile studio recording business. The Small Business Center, through the addition of Wayne Business and Industry Center and N.C. Military Business Center, works with students and potential entrepreneurs as well as local business and industry and those handling military contracts.

Wayne Community College has long prided itself on anticipating the future job market and preparing its students for it.

So classes and programs change to reflect the community's employment needs, readying those who will soon enter the workforce for certificates and diplomas, as well as supplemental training.

One of the school's cornerstones was developed by the state nearly three decades ago -- the Small Business Center.

"The Small Business Center is for folks that have their own business, folks that are thinking about starting their own business, and particularly those that may have been in business a while and want to expand or learn something new," said Renita Dawson, the center's director.

The center focuses on three areas: confidential counseling, seminars and workshops and a resource center.

The college regularly offers free seminars, featuring topics ranging from developing a business plan and marketing to time management and grant writing. The resource center allows those without Internet access to use a computer and do research through a library of books, videos and DVDs.

The Small Business Center has provided a customized training program for businesses, industries and government programs, and it has expanded in recent years to add the WorkKeys program, which emphasizes resume training and job skills assessments as students work toward earning a career readiness certificate. The certificate has become a recognizable skills credential that helps people find a job and get promoted.

But this year, the center has undergone a reorganization, linking it to other programs on campus, Ms. Dawson said.

"For example, automotive -- a lot of those folks could be in a position to start their own business," she said. "We've also helped grow our own entrepreneurs. I think that's going to be important for our community, to help grow our own and engage folks."

Other programs have also been added, such as New Generation Ventures, a statewide initiative aimed at people between the ages of 18 and 30. It features business coaching, assessments on skills and readiness, networking, mentors and even scholarships.

"It's trying to get them involved in the whole process of what it means to be entrepreneurs," Ms. Dawson said. "Locally, we would be able to help them. Individuals that go through this program may be able to gain access to capital, maybe start their own business."

The Wayne Business and Industry Center also has been formed.

"We want it to be seen as a community, as a Wayne County entity," said Diane Ivey, the programs' executive director. "What we're looking at now is really putting together several different funding entities. We're using state funds, we have customized training programs, we have the N.C. Military Business Center."

The latter, introduced through the state's community college system, is part of the state Small Business Center Network. Its purpose is to leverage military and other federal business opportunities for economic development and to help existing businesses identify, bid on and win military and other federal contracts.

"It's for any business that wants to do business with the government," Ms. Ivey said. "In North Carolina, most federal contracts are with the military. We have customized training (for this). It works with a very specific audience."

The concept carries over in every area covered by the Small Business Center, she said.

"We can work with manufacturers, distributors, communication kinds of things, but we work with our employers and we train their employees, too," she said. "What we want to do is get people where they are and take them where they want to be."

For more information about Small Business Center programs, call 739-6941 or visit the college website at waynecc.edu. For information about New Generation Ventures, visit ncruralcenter.org.