Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) and the City of Cedartown are working together on a new initiative that prepares small business owners and local entrepreneurs to succeed in today’s economy.
The Cedartown Business Builders Program, a six-month curriculum, is currently underway until November. The program provides participants with the knowledge and skills to open and operate a business in Cedartown.
Instructors from GNTC are leading two sessions each month on marketing and customer service. There is also monthly networking sessions that gives participants the opportunity to hear from and interact with various business and industry leaders.
“We’ve had people come from the Downtown Cedartown Association and on the state level we’ve had people from the Georgia Small Business Development Center and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs” said April Welch, manager of GNTC’s Polk County Campus. “One person came in to talk about historical grants that may be available to individuals based on where they choose to open their business and another speaker discussed grants and funding that is available from the State of Georgia.”
A mentoring committee, comprised of business leaders in Cedartown, also is available to participants as a resource. Members of the committee include a funeral home owner, a Certified Personal Accountant (CPA), an insurance agency owner, a local practicing attorney, a director of Human Resources, and others.
“We have a very strong base of community support that is providing expert knowledge and information to the students,” said Ms. Welch.
Mark Upton, director of the Marketing Management program at GNTC, leads one of the monthly sessions on the first Tuesday of each month. Mr. Upton’s sessions cover everything that is involved in marketing a business.
“We started with developing a business model and kind of preparing to get your business model and plan together on paper so that it makes sense and your prepared to take it to the investors,” said Mr. Upton. “Recently we talked about management and even got into the human resources side of management; how to recruit, screen, and select the right people and then train, develop, evaluate, and manage those people.”
Beverly Padgett, director of the Service Industry Academy and instructor of Speech at GNTC, leads the second session on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Padgett’s sessions are about customer service, which covers not only the people that business owners consider to be their customers, but also identifying the wider target customer market.
“Customer Service is more important than ever before with 67% of customers choosing where they do business based on how they are treated. Customers know that they have choices and they have an expectation that the interaction be a good one,” said Ms. Padgett. “A new business can gain great market share by establishing a wonderful rapport with customers who will, in turn, share their positive experience about the business with others.”
The classes are held at the City of Cedartown Council Room and networking seminars rotate to separate locations each month. Business tours are also planned for the month of July.
“It is truly a practical, hands-on, approach on how to have a successful small business,” said Ms. Welch.
The culminating event will take place at the Cedartown Auditorium in October with the participants presenting their business plan, marketing plan, and their financial structure to a panel in a setting similar to the television show “The Shark Tank.” Judges and members of the community will rank the presentations and awards will be presented to winners in different categories.
There also will be a graduation celebration and reception in November.