Muskegon leaders say interest in entrepreneurism is on the rise, networks and classes available

Both Suzanne Velarde of the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce and Dave Stradal of Muskegon Community College are quick to say the evidence is anecdotal, but they and others in the lakeshore community say they have been busy fielding an increased number of inquiries about how to start a business in the region.

Some of the interest, they say, has come about since announcing the launch of the e-merge Entrepreneur Network in February, a network of organizations and business leaders ready to help entrepreneurs connect with the resources they need to be successful. The web site, will launch in mid-April and will feature an entrepreneur/mentor matchmaking option.

"Many people thinking about starting a business are not aware of everything that's out there for them," Velarde says. "Since we announced it, the SCORE office inside the Chamber has seen a bump up in those calls, and they have seen more people in the first quarter than at the same time a year ago."

MCC has also been busy, spending the past several months developing and piloting a core group of classes on entrepreneurism as well as a proposed new associate's degree, the Entrepreneur Associate of Applied Science, that will be offered in all 41 of its education departments.

"We wanted to carry our message to students that you can be an entrepreneur whether they're in business programs or music programs," says Stradal, entrepreneurship program coordinator and MCC's representative on the e-merge council.

Ten students are in the pilot program of the entrepreneurship core curriculum that gives students a chance to "stick their toe in the water and gauge their own skill sets," says Stradal. The curriculum helps students develop their own business idea into a business plan and strategy.

In addition, Stradal expects the college to approve the proposed degree in entrepreneurism in time for the first departments to offer it this fall.

"By working with people from the community like SCORE, the Chamber and the MI-SBTDC, the students will already have made contacts and built relationships to enhance their probability of success long before they graduate," Stradal says.

Source: Suzanne Valarde, Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce; Dave Stradal, Muskegon Community College
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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