Economic development, KSBDC office, college support start-ups
LIBERAL, Kan. — If you want a community’s economy to grow, help its members develop a entrepreneurship mindset. That’s the premise of the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program at Seward County Community College, where two pilot groups wrapped up eight weeks of focused learning April 20.
Participants in Spanish- and English-language classrooms unpacked the components for a successful business start-up, concluding with individual presentations to their peers.
“Initially, I saw my role here as helping and hosting,” said Anna Padgett, a member of the English-speaking cohort and full-time Liberal staffer for Kansas Small Business Development. Padgett quickly moved from the role of observer to eater participant, she said.
“The class opened my eyes to the opportunities around me,” she said. “It reignited my passion for working on my own business, and inspired me to go back to school. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to get so much out of it.”
Classmates Karem Gallo and Aide Galindo of Liberal and Heather Urich of Meade shared Padgett’s sense of renewed ambition.
Gallo, a licensed real estate agent, shared her dream of an art-focused business startup, a way to honor her immigrant family’s heritage as artisans in Mexico. Galindo, a single parent who raised her child by working office jobs, expressed admiration for the growth mindset that entrepreneurs exhibit.
]“It’s not like you reach a point where you say, ‘OK, I’m done,’ but you keep looking for opportunities. Why not? Why shouldn’t we try something new? The initial adversity we have gone through gives us the gumption to do the next thing,” said Galindo.
Urich, who signed up in part to benefit her current place of employment, a local nonprofit, and partly for research into her own start-up, said the course provided a great overview of business basics.
“I wanted to challenge myself with possibilities for my own ideas,” said Urich. “It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and forget about your dreams.”
Each class member could be describing the broader vision of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which provided funding for the SCCC program.
“Entrepreneurship represents an opportunity for this region to reverse a decades-long trend of economic decline,” stated Melissa Roberts Chapman, senior program officer in entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “Creating more equitable ecosystems, revitalizing rural communities and accelerating IP-driven business creation are three things we can do to ensure that starting a business in the Heartland isn’t harder than it has to be. In fact, the only way we can regain momentum in the cities and rural areas of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, is to work together to meet the challenges ahead of us.”
That’s exactly what Eli Svaty focuses on every day in his work as director of the Seward County Development Corporation.
“We have a rich history as a community of innovation, and the exciting part of this history is that we are able to support these innovators more today than ever before,” Svaty said. “Our work at the Development Corporation is to ensure that those who wish to explore these opportunities are aware of the local, regional, and state resources that can support them through this journey.”
The Ice House course aims to fill the gaps. A certificate program based on the real-life story of entrepreneur Clifton Taulbert, Ice House develops an entrepreneurial mindset and skills like critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and other key assets crucial for success in business and life.
“More often than not, the average person is walking around with ideas for a better life or even for a new business, but we allow the unknown to keep us from achieving these goals. The Ice-House program offers a framework and inspiration to achieve more. For example, we study the process of Brian Scudamore who turned $700 into the multi-million dollar company: 1-800-GOT-JUNK.”
One common barrier in Liberal is that of language, which the SCCC Ice House program eliminated with the help of local business owner and bilingual speaker Denis Zamora.
“Offering this course in Spanish changes the role of the business support resources. Instead of expecting local Spanish speakers to bring a translator, we have taken the initiative to offer the material in their native language. We have thousands of local residents whose native language is Spanish, and the more we can support their business aspirations, the better our region will be.”
Zamora himself noted that a large portion of his efforts boiled down to encouraging participants to stick with the program.
“It was the homework that scared them,” he said. “They were calling me and saying, ‘It’s too hard,’ but they didn’t give up, and it was something they could achieve and earn that certificate.”
The Ice House program, normally offered to participants at a cost of around $2,000, was provided at no charge at SCCC, thanks to the Kauffman grant funding.
“We learned a lot from this round of teaching and hope to open another cohort of classes over the summer,“ said SCCC grant writer Charity Horinek. “This is a great program, and has the potential to jump-start some really neat businesses throughout our region.”
For information about how to join upcoming entrepreneurship class sessions, contact Svaty at 620-604-5136 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.