WATERVILLE, Maine — A new series of programming aiming to support small business creation begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at 93 Main St., Waterville, with a free seminar on entrepreneurship. The event is open to the public.
The new series is intended to encourage entrepreneurial activity in Kennebec Valley, and the November 19th event, titled “Living the Dream: Create Your Own Startup,” will kick off the series by teaching participants how to identify viable business opportunities in the area. Dr. Frank Appunn, professor of business and information technology management at Thomas College, will facilitate the seminar.
The series is the result of a collaborative effort between local organizations interested in economic and community development, including Thomas College, Central Maine Growth Council, Waterville Main Street, Kennebec Valley Council of Governments (KVCOG), and KV Connect. The collaboration was initiated by Thomas College professor Dr. Emily Shaw with hopes that area residents would get involved early in preparation to participate in a business plan competition this coming spring.
“Thomas College is dedicated to helping members of our broader community achieve their personal and career goals – this is why we’re so excited to work with other business-oriented community members to provide workshops for prospective area entrepreneurs,” said Shaw. “This initial workshop on November 19 is intended to connect with a range of people who might be interested in starting their own business – we welcome everyone interested in the subject, from those who are just thinking about the possibility to those who have a pretty solid idea that they’re already planning to advance.”
According to Shaw, additional workshops will provide further skills and information with subjects ranging from building a business plan to identifying startup funding sources. Organizers hope that the programming will attract not only area college students but a range of interested locals, who will also be invited to participate in the “Shark Tank”-like business plan competition slated for April 2014.
Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, said her organization is supporting this project because innovative business ideas are important for thriving downtowns and the communities that surround them.
“Maine’s historic downtowns endure through their adaptability, and the way humans use the space to live their lives. In an age where people can live anywhere and work anywhere, it makes sense that we use our downtowns to put great ideas in proximity to each other. It makes Waterville a great place to live as well as work,” said Olsen.
Shaw Weeks, a representative of the local young professionals’ group KV Connect, emphasized that the series is intended for would-be entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds.
“Our organization aims to make the Kennebec Valley an attractive and welcoming place for young people to live and work,” said Weeks, who chairs the group’s Economic Development Committee. “Creating a climate that supports start-ups and the aspirations of young people is a big part of that. This is a great way to connect people to existing resources in the community and will reinforce the good work that so many people are doing in economic development.”
Weeks added that the organizations intend to roll the seminar series and business plan competition into an ongoing program designed to continue serving those interested in entrepreneurship.
“KVCOG is excited about this ‘Living the Dream’ seminar. KVCOG is utilizing the Mobilize Kennebec Valley Innovation & Entrepreneurial Action Team to create a sustainable program to assist entrepreneurs and encourage new startup ventures,” said Rosie Vanadestine, executive director of KVCOG. “Growing these small businesses and new startups in the Kennebec Valley is a proven method for spurring economic growth and job creation in our region.”
Representatives of each organization echoed this sentiment that small businesses play a vital role in the local economy.
“Entrepreneurship is such an important factor in our economic growth that we want to do all we can to help Mainers achieve their dreams of starting and running their own business,” said Shaw.
The first seminar, “Living the Dream: Create Your Own Startup,” is scheduled for Tuesday, November 19 at 6pm. The program will take place in the REM Room at 93 Main Street in downtown Waterville. Dinner will be provided. More information about the series is available at www.kvconnect.org/opportunities.
Emily Shaw, Thomas College
Amy Sylvester, KV Connect