The Times West Virginian

Business

March 23, 2014

Small Business Resource Summit and Entrepreneurs Café set Tuesday

FAIRMONT — Main Street Fairmont is helping small businesses find opportunities to grow.

The Small Business Resource Summit and Entrepreneurs Café are scheduled for this Tuesday at Veterans Square, located at 320 Adams St. in downtown Fairmont.

Main Street Fairmont is partnering with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Alliance for Economic Inclusion to host the Small Business Resource Summit.

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 to owners.

Kate Greene, executive director of Main Street Fairmont, said the summit is a one-stop shopping opportunity that will allow small businesses to meet face-to-face with representatives from local, state and regional agencies that can provide services for business startup or expansion.

This expo, which is free, will last from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. People can stop by at any time to talk to the different agencies and gather information about everything from loans to educational services to technical assistance, she said. No registration is required for the summit.

At 9:30 a.m., people can attend a seminar called “Be Essential,” which focuses on how owners can structure or restructure their businesses to make sure their operations are relevant to the community. Participants can also ask the seminar presenters and resource agencies questions during a Q&A session.

Then at noon, Main Street Fairmont will kick off the Entrepreneurs Café, which is sponsored in part by First Microloan of West Virginia. This event is similar to the TV show “Shark Tank,” Greene said.

“That’s an opportunity for people in the community to invest in a really fun format in different startup ideas or in the expansion of existing businesses,” she said.

During the Entrepreneurs Café, small business owners will stand up in front of a lunch crowd and talk for a few minutes about what their business ideas could do for Fairmont. Both startups and existing businesses are welcome to give presentations.

“Anybody that has an idea that could add to our quality of life in Fairmont should come and pitch,” Greene said.

Persons who are interested in pitching their ideas must sign up with Main Street by Monday. Main Street can be reached by calling 304-366-0468 or emailing kate@mainstreetfairmont.org.

Members of the community are invited to listen to the presenters during the Entrepreneurs Café. The cost to attend is $15 per person. If individuals register in advance, by Monday, their ticket purchase will include lunch during the event. People can also pay at the door the day of the café, but lunch isn’t guaranteed for them, Greene said.

At the end of the Entrepreneurs Café, everyone who bought a ticket will have the chance to vote for their favorite business idea. The idea that receives the most votes will win all the proceeds from the luncheon, and that funding will help the business put its idea into action, she said.

Starting a business is very costly, and this is one way to help out entrepreneurs. If the Entrepreneurs Café is a success, Main Street Fairmont will look at making this a regular event, Greene said.

“It’s a really neat way for people to get involved,” she said.

In addition, Main Street Fairmont will have a brief ceremony during Tuesday’s activities to award a $5,000 Innovation Grant, which is separate from the Entrepreneurs Café.

Greene explained that Main Street held a contest in which people had until March 14 to submit business plans specifically for downtown Fairmont. A committee will review the submissions, and on Tuesday the author of the winning plan will be awarded a check for around $5,000 to go toward their business.

The Innovation Grant is sponsored in part by Fairmont Federal Credit Union.

All of these business-related events are following Main Street Fairmont’s Small Business Boot Camp, which took place at Veterans Square every Tuesday night between Feb. 4 and March 18. The goal of this seven-week training was to give people the educational foundation and real-world experience that they need to start a business.

The sessions covered a variety of topics, from writing business plans to international trade to every topic in between, Greene said. All of the instructors were local educators and business professionals, who also served as mentors to the class members.

She said the Small Business Boot Camp was a great success and had 20 participants, who were mostly from Marion County but also included two individuals from Upshur County. Main Street received a lot of positive feedback from the individuals who participated, and is interested in holding the training again.

Many of the people who attended the boot camp are expected to pitch their ideas at the Entrepreneurs Café.

All of these activities are focused on community and business growth, Greene said.

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

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