Entrepreneurship classes established

By Clay Wilson

According to local economic development officials, startup small businesses often fail due to inadequate planning.

People with no prior business experience often have trouble with such issues as financing, staffing, production and distribution, said Henry Country Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kay Pippin.

"Failure to plan, basically," said Henry County Development Authority Director Bob White when asked what kinds of challenges often lead to the demise of new businesses.

But the Chamber, the Development Authority and Clayton College & State University are teaming up to help remedy this situation. The three organizations have put together the "Entrepreneurial Success Series," a five-week mini-course that aims to give would-be business founders the tools they need to succeed.

"We wanted to try to address some of (the challenges small businesses face) to increase the success rate of startup small businesses," said White. "This program – is a step in that direction."

White said county development officials were inspired to hold the series by a similar one in Fayette County. Last year, the Development Authority's Bob Martel went through that program, and White said Authority officials were so impressed they decided to implement it here.

According to White, the series is part of an overall effort at the Development Authority to put more emphasis on small business development.

"Our traditional role as the Development Authority was industry recruitment, but in every economy – and certainly in Henry County – small business is really the backbone ?," White said.

He said that as part of a recent "refocusing" of Authority staff, Martel was assigned as an economic development specialist who works with both established industries and small businesses.

He also said that the Authority is working closely with the Chamber of Commerce in the endeavor to focus on small businesses.

"It really is a joint effort," he said. "It's something that benefits all of us as organizations, and benefits the community as a whole."

Pippin agreed. "It's good for the economy, it's good for Henry County, it's good for everybody if these businesses succeed and prosper," she said.

The Chamber is co-sponsoring the event, providing advertising and meeting space. The weekly classes will take place at the organization's McDonough office.

Pippin said the Chamber wants to see the entrepreneurial spirit become a "personality trait" of Henry County. "This is one way that the Chamber of Commerce and the Development Authority can do something immediately in that direction," she said.

The Chamber and the Authority have enlisted the aid of Clayton College & State University, which will provide the classes in the series.

According to Cecil McDaniel, director of the Small Business Development Center at CCSU, the center has conducted such a series before in Peachtree City. The SBDC provides consulting and support to established and startup small businesses in Clayton, Henry, Fayette and Spalding counties.

McDaniel said the classes are ones that the SBDC offers quarterly through the college's continuing education program. However, for the Entrepreneurial Success Series, he said, "We put them into a series that made sense logically and are giving (participants) a discount."

Ordinarily, the classes cost $54 each, but through the series all five are only $199.

McDaniel also said the series can benefit owners of existing small businesses, in addition to startups.

"It's almost a mini business administration degree, if you would," he said.