Organizations strengthen entrepreneurs through boot camp

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Many rural communities depend on small businesses to create jobs, and entrepreneurs in Independence County are gaining strength through boot camp. The county's economic development office helped develop a six-week Entrepreneur Boot Camp to bolster future growth for the local economy.

"It really takes a community to help grow, to have a spirit of entrepreneurship growth in the county that's going to succeed," Herb Lawrence said.

Lawrence is one of the driving forces behind the cultivation of new enterprises in the Batesville area. He serves as director of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC). His organization co-sponsors the boot camp for budding business owners, promising six nights to business success.

"You'll exit with a business plan. You'll have already met all the key elements and the people involved in those," said Ed Mabry, executive director of Independence County Economic Development.

Mabry's office helps to fund the boot camp alonside ASBTDC, Citizens Bank, First Community Bank and the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. Twenty-three residents are currently enrolled in the workshop, an unexpectedly high level of interest.

Each week, the workshops cover different aspects of building a successful business plan. The boot camp costs $50, but those who complete the entire series will get their money back.

"On graduation night, if they made fix of the six workshops, if they actually get up and give an executive summary, we're going to tear up their (tuition) checks," Lawrence said.

Mabry says small businesses are the backbone of job creation in the area, and adds that, upon graduation, the entrepreneurs will have a complete business plan and the tools to start a new business.

"Let's get people armed with education as best as we can and get them off to a good start," Mabry said.

The current boot camp class graduates Dec. 2nd. Each person will present an executive summary at a banquet. Mabry says he hopes to continue the boot camp program next fall, but he is also working to create a similar class for existing business owners.

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