The Times West Virginian

January 19, 2014

Small Business Boot Camp begins Feb. 4 in Fairmont

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — With beneficial resources at the fingertips of entrepreneurs, business success can be a reality.

Main Street Fairmont wanted to find a way to bring stores into downtown Fairmont, said executive director Kate Greene. So the organization decided to create a seven-week training to give people the educational foundation and real-world experience that they need to start a business.

The Small Business Boot Camp will begin Feb. 4 and meet every Tuesday night from 6-9 p.m. until March 18. Each session will take place at Pierpont Community & Technical College’s space at Veterans’ Square in downtown Fairmont.

Participants will pay a $35 materials fee for the entire program.

Greene said the attendees will interact with local educators and business professionals who are actively involved in the community and are making a difference. Those presenters will be able to mentor the class members and serve as a constant resource, giving them the tools to be successful in business.

The Small Business Boot Camp is open to anybody who is interested in opening a business in downtown Fairmont, Marion County or beyond, she said. The series has an itinerary of 14 topics, with two being covered each evening.

“The tools are solid,” Greene said. “We want to see small business in West Virginia. These tools are for everybody.”

The program will include the following topics: deciding on a business, writing the business plan, computer and communication tools, business organization, business licenses and permits, insurance, location and leasing, accounting and cash flow, financing your business, e-commerce, buying a business or franchise, opening and marketing, expanding and handling problems, and international trade.

Interested persons must register ahead of time by visiting www.mainstreetfairmont.org, calling 304-366-0468, emailing kate@mainstreetfairmont.org, or finding Main Street Fairmont on Facebook.

To follow up those classes, Main Street Fairmont will partner with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Alliance for Economic Inclusion to host a Small Business Resource Summit during the eighth week. Greene said this event, on Tuesday, March 25, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., will focus on both startup entrepreneurs and those already actively engaged with business in the community.

“(We’re) looking at bringing people from the state, local, federal level in to talk about how you can make your business better and stronger,” she said.

The summit will feature 45-minute, engaging seminars, Greene said. There is no cost to attend this particular event, and registration isn’t required.

“The reason we wanted to get involved in it is that small business entrepreneurship development is an extremely important function not only in working with individuals so they can find ways to increase wealth and save and support their family, but also to improve their whole communities,” said John Meeks, community affairs specialist for the Atlanta region of the FDIC.

He said the Alliance for Economic Inclusion, which is guided by the FDIC, is made up of West Virginia organizations that work within the small business community. The organization is devoted solely to small business entrepreneurship issues and strives to improve the resources that are available owners.

The alliance has held two other Small Business Resource Summits — one in Beckley and one in Huntington — to give aspiring or current business people the opportunity to see the resources that are available to meet their needs.

These events try to connect individuals with resource providers that deal with credit, educational opportunities, technical assistance, taxes, importing and exporting, and other areas, Meeks said.

The Small Business Boot Camp and the Small Business Resource Summit will be a nice offering in Fairmont and are targeting people in a 10-county area surrounding the Friendly City, he said.

Another activity on March 25 is the Entrepreneurs’ Café. This luncheon event, scheduled for noon, is an effort to award micro-funding to local entrepreneurs.

Main Street Fairmont modeled this event after a program of the same name led by Vision Shared, a nonprofit community and economic development organization in the state. The Entrepreneurs’ Café is the idea that led Main Street Fairmont to start these upcoming business-related efforts, Greene said.

During the Fairmont Entrepreneurs’ Café, local entrepreneurs will share their business ideas, and members of the community who attend will vote on which one they think is the best, she said. The winner has the chance to walk away with some money  from this “People’s Choice Award.”

Local entrepreneurs must pre-register in order to make presentations.

Attendees must also register in advance — by Friday, March 21 — and pay $15 for their lunch ticket. Persons can show up the day of the event, but lunch will not be included for them. All the proceeds from the tickets sales will go to the winner of the “People’s Choice Award,” Greene said.

In addition, Main Street Fairmont has secured $5,000 through the West Virginia Development Office and plans to give that money away as a Small Business Innovation Grant to a viable, sustainable business model specifically for Fairmont’s historic downtown, she said.

Main Street will be accepting business plans for review until March 14 and will make the announcement of the winner during the Entrepreneurs’ Café.

Greene said these events are all tied together and will be very valuable for participants.

The timing is also important because of the development that’s coming downtown, she said. This is the chance for entrepreneurs to establish a presence downtown in preparation for the increased traffic in the future.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.