Spokane Journal of Business

Community colleges prioritize entrepreneurship

Avista Corp. supporting programs at both SCC, NIC

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Inland Northwest community colleges are beginning to take on a business ownership angle in some of their course offerings. Both Spokane Community College and North Idaho College have entrepreneurship programs into which Spokane-based Avista Corp. has invested heavily. 

The Avista Center for Entrepreneurship at SCC offers an integrated business and entrepreneurship (IBE) program. Formed in 2008, the 30-credit, six-month program has offered individuals with an interest in business hands-on training in the world of entrepreneurship.

SCC has created a new, condensed program for hopeful business owners as well. Starting April 14, it will offer an eight-week workshop called the Small Business Boot Camp for entrepreneurs. This program, in partnership with the Center for Workforce and Continuing Education and the Avista Center for Entrepreneurship at SCC, aims to teach individuals the basics of venturing into their own businesses. 

The group will meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. from April 14 to June 4. 

Jeffrey Waybright is the Avista Center for Entrepreneurship coordinator for SCC. He says he has taught courses for the entrepreneurship program offered at SCC in the past, and is now the coordinator. Waybright says the boot camp was created for people who couldn’t attend the afternoon classes for the regular entrepreneurship pro-gram. This is the eighth year the IBE program has been running, says Waybright, and he says he found a growing number of individuals who didn’t have the time or means to attend the course, although they had the desire to participate. 

“Our program is very intensive,” says Waybright. “It’s a very abbreviated version to see if we could help people.” 

The cost of the boot camp is reduced as well. Waybright says SCC’s regular program would cost around $3,000, and the Small Business Boot Camp is available now for $250 to the first 20 participants and $575 thereafter. Community Colleges of Spokane Foundation is covering $275 of the tuition cost for those initial participants. 

Five students currently are enrolled in the Small Business Boot Camp, says Waybright, but he expects that at least five more will enroll by the deadline. Waybright says the demographic mix of students taking this course is “all over the board.” He says people who have committed to the regular program range from recent high school graduates to 70-year-old retirees who’d like to start a business of their own. 

Topics covered in the boot camp include how to use resources available to small businesses, how to determine the viability of a small business plan or idea, how to establish start-up costs, and how to find customers and market to an audience, says Waybright. 

 “The practical components of the boot camp are vital to overcoming many common barriers faced in the business world.” he says. 

Similar to the business programs offered at SCC, North Idaho College has recently created an entrepreneurship program. 

NIC’s integrated business entrepreneurship program is a part of the Avista Center for Entrepreneurship at the Coeur d’Alene-based school. Like SCC’s IBE program, NIC’s program teaches students how to evaluate business ideas and launch their own businesses. 

Avista provides much of the funding for the NIC program. After students earn their certificates in the IBE program, they are eligible to apply for a business loan of up to $15,000 through the Avista Micro-Enterprise Loan Fund.

“Money is one of the main obstacles to starting a business,” says Steve Trabun, Avista regional business manager and project manager for the entrepreneur program, “We want to build a community of support.”

The IBE program at NIC began last year. A student receives a 15-credit hour certificate after completing the program. “The program will provide (students) with general exposure to all aspects of business,” says Trabun.

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