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Pearl River Community College Training Would-be Entrepreneurs

Thursday, May 28, 2009   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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Sandra K. Woodall dreams of owning a restaurant or bed-and-breakfast.

Brenda McCoy of Petal wants to open a clothing store.

Both women are learning skills they will need as small business owners through an entrepreneur training program at Pearl River Community College's Lowery A. Woodall Advanced Technology Center in Hattiesburg.

The 57-year-old former nursing assistant has been unemployed for more than two years while battling breast cancer. A recent fall led to shoulder surgery.

"I knew I would have to change my career," she said. "I had been going to the (Oak Grove) library, anywhere I could to self-educate myself. I'm a determined woman."

While improving her computer skills at the WIN Job Center, Woodall learned of the Southern Entrepreneurship Program.

The Montgomery Institute in Meridian and the state MyBiz program are managing a grant from the Mississippi Employment Security Commission to fund the program. Dr. Brent Hales, an assistant professor in the economic and workforce development department at the University of Southern Mississippi, is teaching the 12-week course at PRCC and on the Gulf Coast.

"Pearl River is leading where the rest of the community colleges are soon to follow in offering entrepreneurship training for dislocated workers, students and others looking to find alternative forms of employment," said Christian B. Reed, director of entrepreneurship development programs at the Montgomery Institute.

"Because he's using a curriculum from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, we're able to offer this program at the community college level and community colleges can begin looking at 'for credit' and 'not for credit' offerings throughout the college," Reed said. "What we're finding is there are a lot of folks out there who want this training."

McCoy is one of them.

"I work low-paying jobs, but I really want to open my own business," she said. "I have learned so much - a lot about business, profits, marketing."

McCoy, 49, guesses she has about an 80 percent chance of making her dream come true.

"I'm in the process of buying material my store needs," she said. "I'm starting from the bottom up. I've gone out and priced buildings and land. I've gone on-line to check prices on cash registers and clothing racks."

The current course ends May 26. Five students have stuck with it at PRCC with another five on the coast, Hales said. The next session hasn't been scheduled.

"We're trying to get it funded through the Workforce Investment Act through the WIN Job Centers," he said.

The program, which Hales also teaches in high schools, gives students the knowledge and skills to develop financial and funding plans for their potential businesses and helps them seek start-up capital from existing agencies.

Research shows the majority of private businesses in the mid-south have fewer than 50 employees. Many are family-owned and face similar problems, Hales said.

"In particular, a large percentage of these businesses are operated by individuals who are quite knowledgeable regarding the particular requirements of their chosen endeavors (but) far too many lack basic cash flow, financial management, inventory management and financial planning skills to insure stability and growth," he said. "The focus of our program is to deliver these crucial financial management skills."

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