A large number of local entrepreneurs and community leaders considered how the community can be a part of promoting local entrepreneurship at a town meeting organized by Black River Technical College on July 17. BRTC President Dr. Wayne Hatcher is working to bolster entrepreneurism as a community economic development and educational tool through this joint project with leadership support also from the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Pocahontas.
The meeting, held at Marilyn’s Clogging Studio on the Court Square, featured a panel of small business owners and operators from around the Court Square area, and was moderated by Matt Hampton of Elevate Entrepreneurship of Little Rock. Also participating in the panel were Chamber Director Tim Scott, PHS Superintendent Darryl Blaxton and PHS High School Principal Ivy Pfeffer, Walnut Ridge Chamber Director L.J. Bryant, and BRTC Business Instructor Darenda Kersey. Other panelists included Jim Sadler of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), Wonder Lowe of Hope Credit Union, and Russell Hampton of ACCION, all of Little Rock, and Richard Walden of Jonesboro, representing the office of Congressman Rick Crawford.
Hampton commended the community on the vibrancy of its downtown area. “You have one of if not the best developed court squares in the state,” he said. Several speakers and audience members noted that the Court Square, which had only sporadic businesses just five years ago, today is filled with viable and diverse businesses, ranging from professional to service to entertainment, arts and crafts, residential and retail operation.
A common theme from the entrepreneurs was the level of hard work and commitment required, and a need for community support from each other and from city and county government. Many members of the audience also included individuals engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits both in town and throughout the county.
Resources available to small businesses include SCORE, which provides assistance with development of business plans and other services, Hope Credit Union, which provides financial planning, and ACCION, a non-profit agency providing micro-lending services to small businesses.
The next step in the entrepreneurship initiative is a workshop scheduled for Wednesday, August 15, from noon to 3, at Marilyn’s Clogging Company. The event will target those already involved in entrepreneurship who want to move to the next level, those who want to develop a new business, and local secondary and college educators who are interested in incorporating elements of entrepreneurship into their courses or programs of study.
Patti Blaxton, BRTC’s Director of Corporate and Community Education, also announced a fall “Operation Jumpstart” training program designed to help those interested in starting up their own business.
For more information on these events, contact Blaxton at 870-248-4181 or Jessica McFadden at 870248-4000, ext. 4189.