BCL of Texas Joins EntrepreneurshipWeek USA
|Category: ||Affordable Loan Products, Community Impact
|Keywords: ||Business Lending, Economic Development, Economic Impact, Partnerships
|Information About Organization:|
|Name: ||BCL of Texas
|Address: ||2212 S. Congress Ave.
| ||Austin, Texas 78704
|Contact: ||Rosa Rios Valdez, Executive Director
|Web Site: ||http://www.bcloftexas.org
Business and Community Lenders of Texas (BCL of Texas) has joined a nationwide initiative founded by the Kauffman Foundation –EntrepreneurshipWeek USA – to support local economic development activities and opportunities. The program was designed to engage agencies that support and sustain local businesses and economic growth.
BCL of Texas was established in 1990 by community volunteers in the central Texas region. The agency provides small businesses with counseling and technical assistance, plus originates, underwrites, closes and services business and commercial loans. The goal of the program is to create long-term jobs and stable communities through business development. BCL of Texas also offers homebuyer education and helps first-time homebuyers purchase a home. Its business lines include community building, economic development, homebuyer and multifamily services and real estate development.
EntrepreneurshipWeek USA. EntrepreneurshipWeek USA is a nationwide event hosted by the Kauffman Foundation (www.kauffman.org) and sponsored by the New York Times and Inc. magazine. For its inaugural year 2007, the week-long event took place from February 24 through March 3. More than 700 organizations planned thousands of activities in all 50 states to raise awareness around entrepreneurship. These events were meant to stimulate ideas for existing business owners as well as young people who are considering futures in business.
EntrepreneurshipWeek USA builds links between organizations across the nation. These organizations connect with their communities to provide support and information that strengthens economic development and helps individuals realize their potential. Participating agencies held activities, events and contests, all pertaining to entrepreneurship and successful business ownership.
BCL of Texas discovered EntrepreneurshipWeek USA while researching entrepreneurship opportunities on the Internet. The organization decided to join the program to try and counter some of the economic challenges that exist in the rural communities in its service area, such as high dropout rates at area high schools and a lack of business opportunities.
Local Events. BCL of Texas hosted two events as part of EntrepreneurshipWeek USA. The first was a summit for local partners and young people and the second event was geared toward local business owners who were interested in purchasing commercial property. BCL of Texas planned to hold its activities during the nationwide event, but had to postpone by about one month due to inclement weather.
The Entrepreneurship Summit. The first event was held for members of the I-10 Corridor Association, a network of 43 members from local nonprofit agencies, chambers of commerce, businesses, real estate companies and city government from 27 communities along Interstate 10. Representatives from these small, rural communities created the I-10 Corridor Association in order to make connections and work together to promote economic development and tourism within the region. The goal was for each community to think “regionally,” and to provide coaching to one another plus resources, networking and referral opportunities. The group is essentially made up of local leaders who want to share ideas and solve problems. Members of the I-10 Corridor Association embraced EntrepreneurshipWeek USA since it fit perfectly with its progressive mission of serving the economic needs of communities in the region.
The Entrepreneurship Summit was held at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas. It was a day-long forum where speakers talked about local demographics and why entrepreneurship is an important part of the local economic landscape. Speakers emphasized how growing entrepreneurship is a new trend and is especially important in rural areas where small businesses find it increasingly difficult to compete with larger businesses and “big box” retailers. The Entrepreneurship Summit taught participants how to help the existing and developing businesses in their communities “think like entrepreneurs” so they can survive in competitive business environments.
Speakers. The keynote speaker for the event was Gram Weston, one of the founding members of Rackspace, a web company based in San Antonio, Texas. His story was inspiring: he grew up on a farm in rural Texas and went through many transitions and transformations to eventually begin his own corporation, which now provides web hosting services around the world.
Additional summit speakers included a representative from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, Inc. in North Carolina who talked about networking strategies and how to obtain state funding so economic development efforts can continue for the long term. In addition, a number of local business owners talked about their experiences, challenges and lessons learned in becoming entrepreneurs. Most speakers spoke about the importance of technology in creating a profitable and sustainable business.
There were eight speakers in all who covered topics related to demographics, regionalism, instilling the entrepreneurial spirit in youth, leadership development and how to form policies that support local business. Overall, program participants walked away with new ideas on how to spur entrepreneurship in their communities.
The Second Event. The second event was called “When to Buy and How to Buy Commercial Real Estate.” This was a two-hour course for new or existing business owners who were interested in purchasing commercial real estate with “504 loans” through the Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA 504 loans provide affordable purchase financing for commercial properties.
The event was held at BCL of Texas’ office and included speakers from BCL of Texas, the lending industry and SBA. At this event, speakers gave tips on how to prepare for and obtain SBA 504 loans for commercial property. They explained the advantages of these loans and went over what to look for in basic real estate financing. Participants were given a checklist of items that need to be in place before financing can be obtained.
Outreach and Marketing. To recruit participants to EntrepreneurshipWeek USA events, BCL of Texas sent postcards and email messages to local high schools, junior high schools, media, mayors, city managers, elected officials, chamber directors and lenders. Those interested needed to contact BCL of Texas to register.
Staffing. BCL of Texas coordinated both events including speaker recruitment, marketing, registration, and program set up. Staff also arranged for transportation and accommodations for speakers and prepared event materials.
Program Costs and Funding. Event costs included postage, mailings, program materials, speakers, room rental, luncheon costs, travel expenses and staffing. The total expense amounted to about $4,500. BCL of Texas had many in-kind donations including room fees, video equipment and waived speaker fees. In addition, four local lenders contributed about $500 each to sponsor the program.
BCL of Texas charged a fee to participants to attend the Entrepreneurship Summit. Members of the I-10 Corridor Association paid $10 and non-members paid $20 (youth attended for free). In the end, after all pro-bono, sponsorships and program fees were accounted for, BCL of Texas made a $1,200 profit on this event.
Approximately 50 people attended the Entrepreneurship Summit, 20 of which were members of the I-10 Corridor Association. Participants walked away with new ideas on how to promote and support local business development that is sustainable and competitive in a changing business environment.
Eight people attended the “When to Buy and How to Buy Commercial Real Estate” training. The program was free and helped participants understand what was needed to purchase a commercial property. As a result of this event, BCL of Texas decided to offer this training every month, starting in September 2007.
One product of the EntrepreneurshipWeek USA was a plan for BCL of Texas to create a “lunchtime” program for sixth grade students that will encourage them to consider various careers in business. The program will teach entrepreneurship and how to launch a small business. The lunchtime group will meet two times a month for at least one semester and possibly the whole year. BCL of Texas staff will create the curriculum and implement the program in 2008.
Participants and sponsors alike loved this event and want to participate in EntrepreneurshipWeek USA in 2008. Rather than repeat this years’ activities, BCL of Texas’ executive director hopes to implement other events that build on the knowledge gained in 2007 to move existing and potential business owners toward a more entrepreneurial frame of mind.
- Start Small. EntrepreneurshipWeek USA can be a great venue for rural organizations to support economic development in their communities. Participating agencies can offer any type of event, as long as it relates to economic development and demonstrates how important it is to develop and sustain small local businesses.
- Create Clear Objectives. Know why you are joining EntrepreneurshipWeek USA and present the goals to the public. Make connections between national and local trends and promote the benefits of joining a nationwide initiative.
- Plan Early. As with any collaborative event, it is important to plan early. Get all event components in place, and then focus on marketing and outreach. Join forces with others in the community who are concerned with economic development to have a broader impact.
- Charge a Fee. Fees will help cover event costs, which is vital for nonprofit agencies with limited budgets. The fee, however, should be affordable for participants.
- Get Involved. Joining EntrepreneurshipWeek USA gave BCL of Texas national, regional and local exposure. It helped to communicate the organization’s goals related to economic development, which is vital to healthy rural communities. Small businesses can easily become obsolete in rural areas if area stakeholders don’t support their growth and help them keep pace with larger corporate entities. For more information on the nationwide event, visit www.entrepreneurshipweekusa.com.
Interview on 07-16-07 with Rosa Rios Valdez, Executive Director