Encouraging Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Allan Younger, director, Small Business Center, Forsyth Technical Community College, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Featured in the magazine of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship

Six entrepreneurs are one step closer to achieving their dream as a result of funds awarded from the Small Business Launch Challenge at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Now in business are a costume designer, speech consultant, athletic trainer, and three culinary entrepreneurs.

The Launch Challenge is a result of a collaborative effort among six colleges and universities in the city. Started in 2017 and sponsored by the Emerging Entrepreneur Funds and the Winston-Salem Alliance, the schools offer programs for students and alumni to stimulate entrepreneurship. Each institution developed a different program with established guidelines in support of its initiative.

Schools participating with Forsyth Tech are:

  • Piedmont International University
  • Salem College
  • University of North Carolina School of the Arts
  • Wake Forest University
  • Winston-Salem State University

“For more than 30 years, Forsyth Technical Community College has been central to community entrepreneurship in Winston-Salem and the surrounding area;” said Forsyth Tech President Gary Green. “We are pleased to be part of the community entrepreneurship ecosystem.

he funds extend Forsyth Tech’s support for its students, and clients, not only taking them to graduation or completion, but helping them launch their dreams of business ownership’.’ The Forsyth Tech Foundation created the fund for alumni, current students, and Small Business Center clients to foster successful business start-ups in Forsyth and Stokes Counties. The award pool is $100,000 per year for three years through 2020, and the award amount is based on successful completion of the Launch Challenge. The program works with individuals who are committed to launch their businesses within six months of completing the program.

The first session was held in the fall of 2017, and the second took place in the spring of 2018. During the sessions, participants attended five Small Business Center educational events and three mentoring sessions per month to receive educational resources and guidance from other professionals. They were required to provide weekly progress reports showing the steps they had taken to advance their ideas. They also participated in educational events, met weekly as a group, and attended one-on-ones with business mentors to help guide them. At the business plan. The winners were selected based on their presentation, the potential success of their business start-up, and the work they completed throughout the program.

The Launch Challenge has enabled Forsyth Tech to raise money that can be put in the hands of people starting community businesses and help make Winston-Salem a place where entrepreneurs are able to succeed.