Small business is big business to most communities, but how do you know if it is a worthwhile economic development strategy for your community? The Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce answered the question by evaluating the small business and entrepreneur (SB/E) ecosystem. They assessed whether there is an opportunity to increase start-ups and help grow small businesses. The evaluation resulted in an action plan for small business and entrepreneurship that fits with the Chamber’s mission to “stimulate economic vitality.”
They started by establishing a task force of stakeholders: entrepreneurs, organizations that support small business and entrepreneurs, long-time business owners, and educational partners. Next, they gathered lots of data to form a gaps analysis. The study process included an ecosystem evaluation, analysis of SB/E data, development of a resource inventory, engaging small business and entrepreneurs, assessment of gaps, best practices, and an action plan.
The resulting action plan for the Alamance Chamber is based on connecting SB/E to resources; communicating opportunities, events, and resources; and increasing Chamber resources that support SB/E. As the leading business association and loudest voice for business in Alamance County, the Chamber can play an important role in raising awareness of small business and entrepreneurship, advocating for policy changes, and delivering the personal connections that are so critical to entrepreneurs.
How do you find out what, if any, entrepreneurship strategy is right for your community? Start where we do by evaluating the demand side (entrepreneurs) and the supply side (resource providers). You can learn a lot by asking the people who need help and those set up to give it. Don’t be surprised if you find a disconnect. Bridging that disconnect is a good first step. Ask what your organization’s role should be, as well as the role of your partners. Start with small, realistic steps that will lead to accomplishments. Long-term projects are okay to tackle, just make sure you are adding value to the ecosystem in the meantime.
For more best practices in entrepreneurship check out previous blog posts about our three Certified Entrepreneurial Communities® : Cleveland County, Holly Springs, Amherst County, and the CEC® program.