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PHCC targets entrepreneurs
Startup America program outlined
Aneesh Chopra listens to a speaker as attendees (from left) Tim Martin, Kim Wheeler, Sheila Hubbard, Rhonda Hodges and Kara Carter-Hundley look on Wednesday during a meeting to promote Startup America at Patrick Henry Community College. (Bulletin Photo by Mike Wray)
Thursday, August 23, 2012
A nationwide program is helping Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) promote entrepreneurism as a way of boosting the local economy.
Startup America is a public-private partnership striving to “provide valuable resources and connections to help young companies grow,” its website says.
Aneesh Chopra, the former chief technology officer for the federal government, visited PHCC on Wednesday to promote Startup America. He said any new business can register for free and get access to support services.
Those services, according to Startup America’s website, www.s.co, include mentoring and advising, access to sources of capital, help in finding new customers, expanding into new markets and recruiting the right workers.
Finding capital is extremely important to small businesses, said Tim Martin, an uptown Martinsville merchant who was among a group of local business people and PHCC employees who talked to Chopra.
“You’d be surprised at what $5,000 or $10,000 can do” to help a business, Martin said.
Along with participating in Startup America, PHCC President Angeline Godwin said the college teaches various types of for-credit and not-for-credit courses that can help people launch businesses.
She did not know how many people who have started businesses locally have taken these courses.
PHCC also is a member of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, which advocates entrepreneurism by helping community colleges link related programs to work force development programs.
The college intends to build a “community network” of entrepreneurs and other business people in the area who have been successful and can offer advice to emerging Henry County-Martinsville businesses, Godwin said.
“We want to create the best dynamics we can ... for people who are trying to take their businesses to the next level,” she said.
In the local business community, “we have smart people and we must keep them here” running businesses, Godwin said. To do that, “we must leverage every resource” available — both locally and nationally — to help them.
Despite economic problems in the community in recent years, it is possible for upstart businesses to succeed here, Martin pointed out, noting Solid Stone Fabrics as an example.
Solid Stone, which manufactures and distributes fabrics for dance, team/spirit, costume, active apparel, swimwear and other markets, has been in business for about a decade and has grown at a time when the area’s textile industry has declined overall, Martin said.
He mentioned that the area’s legacy companies, such as Bassett Furniture, all once started out as upstart firms launched by entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is “the American path” to success, Godwin said.