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SBC Earns Award for Innovative Program

By Rob Goldberg Jr.
PCC Media Relations Director

PCC Small Business Center Director Jim Ensor

GREENVILLE—The Pitt Community College Small Business Center’s effort to prepare individuals for self-employment has resulted in a “Centers of Excellence Award” for innovation from the N.C. Small Business Center Network.

PCC Small Business Center Director Jim Ensor accepted the award in October, during the N.C. Small Business Advisors of North Carolina Professional Development Conference in Greensboro.

According to Ensor, the Small Business Center (SBC) received the award for its "Entrepreneurship in the Classroom" program, which was started in 2012.

“As our economy began the recovery process, we realized more of our college students would, by necessity, be self-employed,” Ensor said. “We determined that these self-employed graduates would stand a better chance of economic success if we could introduce them to the services offered through the N.C. Community College System’s Small Business Center Network before they graduated.”

To pilot the program, Ensor said the SBC looked to the college’s public/private partnership with Greenville’s Altitude Academy of Barbering. The goal, he said, was to offer entrepreneurship training to students in the 1,528-hour certificate program.

As a former SBC client, Altitude Academy owner Rodney Bullock was excited about introducing his students to the center’s seminars and counseling services.

"You know, at some point, almost all barbers are small business owners,” Bullock said. “You don't hire a barber; you rent him a chair."

After an initial in-class presentation to the barber students by PCC Small Business Counselor Larry Biggs, Ensor says SBC created a three-part training series specifically for them that was conducted in February and March of 2012.

''We took out normal fare of introductory business seminars and customized them for the barbering industry,” Ensor said, adding that four additional seminars were offered in during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Ensor said as many as 42 students attended each seminar. He said the 21 hours of training amounted to 534 contact hours of instruction.

Ten students from the program started their own businesses in fiscal year 2012-2013, he said, while another 20 started businesses the following year.

“We are pleased that this intensified effort with these PCC students yielded 30 new businesses in Eastern North Carolina,” Ensor said. “We are currently expanding the training to the college’s cosmetology and massage therapy programs. Eventually, we feel this innovative, proactive approach to entrepreneurial training will yield 25-35 new businesses each year.”

It is Ensor’s hope that the students will develop an ongoing relationship with the PCC Small Business Center after graduation. He said continuous interaction would help them become more successful as business owners while providing SBC with valuable feedback that will lead to improved curricula and services.

Located in the PCC’s Greenville Center on Memorial Drive, SBC is committed to helping prospective and existing small business owners in the community succeed, leading to job creation and retention in Pitt County.