Scholarships for Business Start-ups

Been laid off?

Taken a part-time or temp job until things get better?

Really prefer to start your own business?

Well, there’s special help to get started.

Mississippi’s 15 public community and junior colleges in partnership with Small Business Development Centers and WIN Job Centers are now offering scholarships for business start-up counseling and training for up to 1,000 “dislocated workers.” In simple terms, dislocated workers are Mississippi residents who have been laid off at one time or another. Even when re-employed they remain “dislocated.”

Governor Haley Barbour and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security are making American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds available for this training.

“We must be forward thinking, creative, and innovative with our approaches to economic and community development,” said Governor Barbour. “One of the most important ways we can achieve this is by promoting entrepreneurship and small business growth.”

Any interested person simply has to visit the nearest WIN Job Center where a counselor will certify eligibility. Next, the person will register to attend a First Steps Workshop conducted by the Small Business Development Center. Registration for the workshop can be done online at the WIN Job Center. Upon completing the workshop, the person will be eligible to enroll for training at the community or junior college of his or her choice. Each college will offer training at different times and locations based on demand. Upon completion of the training, the person will receive ongoing counseling from the Small Business Development Center.

“This is a one-time opportunity for out-of-work Mississippians who want to become self-employed,” said Dr. Willis Lott, chairman of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges and president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

The training offered by the colleges has shown great success at demonstration sessions conducted on the Gulf Coast and in Southwest Mississippi. The Southern Entrepreneur Program, developed by Dr. Brent Hales at the University of Southern Mississippi, provides the content.

This training opportunity represents another step forward by a multi-agency group pushing small business creation as an essential economic development strategy for communities. Since 2005, the Mississippi Entrepreneur Alliance has quietly, but persistently worked to build interest for this approach.

Apparently, most citizens agree. In a survey taken by the group last year, 96% of respondents believed it “very important to extremely important for the state to support small business and entrepreneur development.”

The Mississippi Development Authority and the West Alabama – East Mississippi Regional Initiative provided resources to create a website, http://www.MyBiz.AM. It provides useful information, including contact information for key support services in every Mississippi community.

Since small businesses usually lead economic recovery, this is a timely program for our state.

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