To support the ongoing growth of entrepreneurship in Rutland County, the Rutland Economic Development Corporation (REDC) has partnered with the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE) and Berkshire Bank to offer a free ten-week business planning course to seventeen emerging entrepreneurs in Rutland County, with extended training through a unique mentorship program.
The course is designed and administered by CWE and held at REDC’s office in downtown Rutland with instruction from Hannah Abrams of Business Coach Vermont. The course syllabus takes students from developing elevator pitches to financials and operations planning. Many of the class participants are makers and entrepreneurs from The MINT – Rutland’s Makerspace.
“The business planning process can be complex and overwhelming,” said Gwen Pokalo, Director of the Center for Women & Enterprise. “With this class, and the generous support of trusted community partners like REDC, the Rutland Region Chamber, The MINT, and Berkshire Bank, these students have the support and skills to start their businesses and pursue their dreams in Rutland.”
By the end of the ten-week course, students will have a complete business plan and will connect with a business mentor to continue their learning and momentum toward starting their own businesses. For an additional six weeks students will connect with area business leaders to receive one-on-one feedback as they take the next steps towards carrying out their business plans. The mentorship program is made possible by a generous sponsorship from Berkshire Bank Foundation.
“We are so pleased to partner with the Rutland Economic Development Corporation and the Center for Women & Enterprise to promote entrepreneurship, job development, and business growth in Rutland County, all of which are right in line with our Foundation’s priority areas,” said Lori Gazzillo, director of Berkshire Bank Foundation. Dwight Williams, Berkshire Bank’s Vermont Business Banking Team Leader, added, “Now celebrating our third straight year of being recognized as Vermont’s number one SBA lender, we welcome the opportunity to reinvest our experience and success with Vermont’s future business owners.”
The REDC Entrepreneurship Committee has been working with area leaders to establish the group of mentors. Each mentor brings a variety of skills and experience, and will be paired with a student following a matchmaking event held during the class graduation on April 19th. The business planning course began February 1st and, in response to interest and high rates of enrollment, there are plans to offer the course on a regular basis.
“The demand for this course is further evidence that Rutland County’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is robust and growing,” said Lyle Jepson, Executive Director of REDC. “By connecting emerging entrepreneurs with technical support, existing tools and networks, and the expertise of established business leaders, together we are giving new businesses the resources they need to succeed right here in Rutland County.”
About Berkshire Bank Foundation
Through foundation grants to nonprofits, scholarships to students, environmental programs, and employee volunteerism, Berkshire Bank is making a difference. Each year the Foundation donates $2 million to nonprofits throughout the Bank’s footprint and 100% of bank employees provide over 40,000 hours of service through their XTEAM® corporate volunteer program. Berkshire Bank was named one of Massachusetts’ Most Charitable Companies by the Boston Business Journal in 2017. To learn more about Berkshire Bank Foundation, visit www.berkshirebank.com/community.
About the Center for Women & Enterprise
The Center for Women & Enterprise is a regional economic development nonprofit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners find greater personal growth, professional success, and financial independence. Through a partnership with the federal Small Business Administration, CWE offers no-cost individual business counseling, low- to no-cost trainings, mentoring, and women’s business enterprise certification. CWE serves all of Vermont as well as New Hampshire, Eastern & Central Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. CWE is also home to the Veterans Business Outreach Center of New England, which assists veterans, active duty service members, and their families with starting and growing their business.
About The MINT – Rutland’s Makerspace
The MINT – Rutland’s Makerspace is shared workshop and classroom for anyone interested in making things. More than just a shared space with all the tools you don’t have space for or couldn’t afford on your own, The MINT is a community of people sharing their knowledge, experience, and ideas in addition to tools, equipment, and workshop space. Members include hobbyists, DIY enthusiasts, educators, students, entrepreneurs, non-profit, and for-profit companies.
About Rutland Economic Development Corporation
For over eighty years, REDC has worked to attract and support businesses and industry of all sizes and from all sectors to ensure Rutland County is a prosperous and welcoming place. REDC works closely with regional partners to create new opportunities and tools to support entrepreneurs, young professionals, and businesses looking for talented employees. REDC believes that building strong relationships, fostering trust, providing friendly and efficient access to resources, and encouraging hopeful and ambitious goal-setting will provide the conditions for sustainable economic growth.