Thanks to the leadership of the Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) and the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Women’s Business Center of Kentucky is now partnering with Kentucky State University to promote the value of entrepreneurship and business development to a new generation of students. In response to guidance from the AWBC, the Women’s Business Center of Kentucky developed an actionable plan to partner with the historically black colleges and universities in the state to help their students develop a fuller understanding of entrepreneurship and business ownership.
The plan sought to provide support for students in the form of business workshops, business training, and the development of student-led programming focused on entrepreneurship. Phyllis Alcorn, Director of the Women’s Business Center of Kentucky, began working with Daryl Love, Associate Vice President of Career Services and Professional Development to explore what the partnership could become.
Since 2011, the Women’s Business Center of Kentucky has helped women entrepreneurs, especially those who are economically or socially disadvantaged, start and grow businesses in Kentucky. The WBC offers business training and technical assistance, helps business owners gain access to capital, and provides programming in the form of workshops, conferences, and roundtables to educate future business owners and entrepreneurs. For Phyllis Alcorn and the WBC, the potential impact of this partnership is clear. “Our goal is to help these students with an interest in business, to cultivate that interest, and give them the tools to be successful entrepreneurs and job creators for their communities. We want to give them a more realistic view of business ownership.”
For Kentucky State, the “why” is equally apparent. Love explains, “If you’re a first-generation student, and not coming from a family with exposure to a lot of different professions, it’s hard to imagine yourself in those roles. We want to make sure we expose and educate those students to those roles. We also make sure that we can get them plugged in. It allows them to gain those hands on experiences for what that field requires. It also helps them validate the knowledge, skills, and abilities they bring to those particular roles – which also supports retention and graduation.”
The WBC hosted an initial virtual workshop in October 2020 called, “How To Turn Your Hobby into a Profitable Hustle.” Fifteen students participated in the event, and many left feeling excited about the information presented. “We saw students really engaged and staying on the Zoom, and we had a really robust Q&A. Discussing the different aspects of business really whet the appetites of the students,” says Love.
Shortly thereafter, Kentucky State used grant funding to support an internship position with the WBC. “One of the students said ‘we really need to have more conversations like this on our campus.’ This sparked the idea that we could pair a student with the WBC to see the businesses they are working to launch or support,” adds Love. The student worked closely with the WBC to learn how the SBA-funded organization supports women-owned businesses throughout the state. “We began meeting every week with the goal of establishing an entrepreneurship club on campus, to encourage students to become business owners while they’re here,” says Alcorn.
While many of the plans and programs were put on hold due to the pandemic, the WBC is preparing for a renewed focus on the partnership’s goals in the coming year. “We’ve got a lot of ideas that we’re working on. We ‘ve talked with a professor to look at offering academic credit to students working with us. We want to hold pop up shops on campus for students with retail businesses to sell their products. We are still developing the entrepreneurship club, which will be a student-led organization and will include a student-led board of directors, to allow them to see the governance side of business as well,” adds Alcorn. Through the partnership, the WBC also hopes to host additional business workshops and to bring in guest speakers from the business community to talk with the students.
For Daryl Love, one particular component of this partnership sticks out. “It’s so important that this initiative is student-led. One of the things students get out of leading this effort are all the soft skills that are involved. If it’s something we create, they’re just participating. But if it’s an idea that they develop and create, then they become owners in this effort.”
To learn more about how you can support this ongoing partnership, please contact the Women’s Business Center of Kentucky by phone at (859) 231-0054 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.