KENNESAW — Let’s say you have a colleague who runs a small business. Let’s say your colleague is happy with how his business is going, but he wants more. He wants to hire additional people. He wants to scale his operations. He needs capital.
Your colleague is in Stage 2 of his business development — the stage many business experts say is as critical, if not more so, than the startup phase. So, where does he get the clarity of understanding and focus that will help set him on the path to continued success?
David Connell loves that question. And he has the answer. Connell would like to introduce you to The Entrepreneurial Center, a proverbial clearinghouse of resources for startup and Stage 2 businesses alike. A joint partnership between the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and Kennesaw State University, the proposed center would help give entrepreneurial businesses the resources they need to grow.
“It will serve as a one-stop shop for small business entrepreneurs, housing financial, organizational and marketing resources, plus office space all under one roof,” says Connell, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber. “Our goal is to meet the needs of anyone looking to launch and grow their business in Cobb County.”
The Entrepreneurial Center is an action item of the Chamber’s Competitive EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) strategy. The Center would encourage entrepreneurship and aid small businesses in areas such as developing, retaining and recruiting talent.
“We have expanded our Economic Development department, created action teams comprised of industry professionals and developed key partnerships to achieve the strategy’s benchmarks,” Connell says.
Rick Franza, Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs in the Michael J. Coles College of Business at KSU, says the university has been developing the initiative internally for several years, making its alignment with the Chamber’s mission a natural step. Michael Salvador, Ph.D., the Coles College director of executive education, will serve as the liaison between the university and the Chamber. “Our goals just came together,” Franza says. “Partnering with the Chamber will get this moving along. It’s a win-win for each of us.”
The Center is designed to offer resources for both startup and existing companies — Stage 2 companies in the development process, but still early in their lifecycles.
“When people think entrepreneurs, they think startups,” Franza says. “But we want to be more than that. The goal is not only job creation, but also job growth. So it’s not only about starting new businesses, which will help create jobs, but also assisting existing businesses that want to grow.”
The Entrepreneurial Center will take a four-pronged approach to helping companies: education, research, facilitation and consultation. Kennesaw State will play an important role in the educational and research sides. “We will assess the growing needs of today’s entrepreneurs and growing businesses,” Franza says. “The unique thing for us is that this also becomes a venue for faculty to conduct valuable research in the area of entrepreneurship. Over the long term, we will be able to learn even more about startups and entrepreneurs, which will help us decide what types of resources they need.”
Initial services are expected to include a law firm, accounting firm, business consultants and faculty members.
"This isn’t about somebody trying to sell you something; we’re going to provide the knowledge,” Franza says. “As we move forward, we’ll be looking for some investments and in-kind services from local businesses to help fund the center.”
Startup companies looking to the center for help will be able to get information in areas such as financing, protecting intellectual property, and legal and recruiting. Existing companies can find information on how to scale their company, how to put processes and procedures in place, and how to grow.
“The kind of services is dependent on where the company is in its lifecycle,” Franza says. “For some companies, we will help them choose what they need to get help with, while others can choose for themselves. The center will mean different things to different companies.”
While there is no set timeline for a physical structure to house the facility, Chamber officials have been scouting potential locations. This month, university officials also presented the program to its deans for approval, a standard procedure. Next month, the program will be presented for the Second Reading, upon which the deans are expected to give the green light for the center initiative.