Pilot program helps minority businesses
Small businesses are critical to a healthy economy. Studies show that minority and low-income communities face numerous challenges in starting and sustaining a business. West Virginia State University Extension Service is better equipping small business owners in and around Charleston through its Economic Development Center.
Opening Soon Inc. (OSI) is the center’s 10-week business and product development program for entrepreneurs, start-ups and micro-enterprises. A cadre of business experts provide education and guidance to those interested in marketing a product or opening a business from idea generation to launch. This collaborative project includes mentoring and coaching from members of the Virginia Small Business Development Center.
In its pilot year, OSI worked with 23 entrepreneurs in various stages of business development. Thanks to this training, five entrepreneurs registered a new product or service with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, two opened new consulting businesses and one is completing a business plan with hopes of opening in 2021.
The success of the pilot cohort has led to increased community support. The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, a community foundation dedicated to improving the lives of the people of the region, will provide grant funding to expand OSI in 2021, and the West Virginia Women’s Business Center will offer mentoring and coaching for the upcoming cohorts.