Every business, large and small, has to start from the ground up — a novel approach, a new idea, a niche left unfulfilled.
Temple University is giving entrepreneurs — military veterans in particular — a new place and an essential partner to help their business concepts become reality. On March 20, Temple’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) cut the ribbon on a new office located in the Ambler Campus Library Building.
“We want to be able to conveniently provide our services to individuals in Montgomery and Bucks counties. We also have an opportunity to focus on other business industries, such as manufacturing,” said Small Business Development Center Director Maura Shenker. “We have the opportunity to offer our non-credit programs at the Ambler Campus, to host business symposia in the Learning Center Auditorium and try new ideas such as a veterans’ cohort of our business incubator. There is so much potential to provide a wide variety of services to entrepreneurs and start-ups within the Ambler community and well beyond.”
The SBDC, an outreach center of the Fox School of Business and Management, has been working to help fledgling businesses bridge the gap between concepts to customers since 1983.
“Our mission is to support entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing the knowledge they need to make smart decisions and achieve prosperity,” said Shenker. “Our consultants work with entrepreneurs in one-to-one sessions to help them with a range of business issues including testing a new business proposition, shaping a business plan and investigating funding opportunities. We provide free consulting services to help small businesses start and existing business owners grow their business — our services are designed to continue to support businesses well after their doors have opened.”
In addition to the wealth of consultancy services the SBDC provides, the Temple Ambler office will offer a business incubator of eight to 12 businesses specifically designed for military veterans.
“We will be working with veterans to take them through the entire business development process, from pre-venture to starting a business to building revenue,” she said. “It is about a nine-month process that we will begin in May.
The incubator, Shenker said, provides start-up businesses that don’t yet have a home of their own with shared office services.
“It provides them with ready access to computers, phones, space to meet clients while also giving them easy access to consultants and SBDC services. It gives them a place where they can really get their business going without feeling like they have to go it alone,” she said. “We hold lunch-and-learns for the tenants on specific business topics; it’s a very social enterprise.”
Shenker said the SBDC has worked closely with Dennis Miller, Executive Principal of Wheel Dog Industries, a public policy consulting firm specializing in veteran and military affairs, to develop the veterans’ cohort. The SBDC is also coordinating their efforts with Temple’s Military and Veterans Service Center.
Speakers at the March 20 event included Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College and Interim Director of Temple University Ambler in addition to the Montgomery County Commissioners, Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair; Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr., former Vice President for Alumni Relations at Temple University, where he also served as Senior Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs; and Joseph C. Gale, a Temple University Ambler alumnus.
“The Small Business Development Center is a perfect partnership for the Ambler Campus and the surrounding community. Having a business incubator on a college campus where military veteran entrepreneurs can access an incredible wealth of resources simply makes sense. We’re very excited to partner with the Small Business Development Center to provide specialized support for start-ups in the region,” McGarvey said. “I definitely see the potential for some green industry start-ups, possibly ideas from our own students, to take advantage of the incubator model in the future. This will be a tremendous resource and a very welcome addition to campus.”
Shenker said the Ambler Campus provides the SBDC room to grow “and we look forward to doing just that!”
“SBDC works with 500 business a year; we want to support any business at any stage. We want to meet businesses where they are and help them get to where they need to be,” she said. “We’ll be hosting meetings every month on campus with groups designed to support local businesses, such as the Small Business Administration and the Montgomery County Commerce Department. We’re also hoping to host a manufacturing CEO roundtable.”
The SBDC is additionally planning to offer a 10-week “entrepreneurial success” non-credit program at Temple Ambler in spring 2019.
“SBDC offers a variety of educational events and programs. The entrepreneurial success program focuses on getting a business up and running, soup to nuts,” Shenker said. “Toward the end we bring in funders to meet with our participants to give them a chance to make crucial connections.”