As a 23-year-old program associate, I have had the privilege of seeing unprecedented impact firsthand. I was lucky enough to serve on the judging panel for the Northeast Region’s Business to College program implemented by Northeastern Junior College. Though sitting through 12 hours of business plan presentations was grueling, it was incredible to witness the impact of El Pomar Foundation’s Regional Partnerships in action, as students demonstrated their newfound knowledge and excitement.
In 2011, the Northeast Regional Council constructed a $50,000 grant to Northeastern Junior College to provide ten scholarships for local business owners to go back to school for one semester. The Business to College program was created by the Council to encourage local business owners and entrepreneurs to participate in a business class and reengage in the local community and economy.
Classes teach students about effective management of businesses, including managing budgets, understanding human resources, utilizing efficient advertising and marketing techniques, performing local and national market analyses, all while energizing young business owners and entrepreneurs.
Due to the successes in the first year, the Council made two grants totaling $120,000 to continue the program at Northeastern Junior College (NJC) for a second year and to implement a program at Morgan Community College (MCC). The grant to Northeastern Junior College and Morgan Community College covered tuition costs for each student, an iPad with Internet access, the salary for the class professor, and a $25,000 reward for a business plan competition. Together the schools serve all nine Northeast Region counties and cover nearly 18,000 square miles of territory.
Each school operated the program slightly differently, but the outcomes were very similar. Each school has noted the community-wide impact of the program. Focusing on growing the entrepreneurial spirit across northeast Colorado has provided the tools and energy to invest in their local communities, bringing jobs to the region, building excitement and opportunity to young people, and sparking pride to the schools and communities. The Northeast Council wanted to spur economic development and energize the young individuals in the community. The Business to College program, however, has done that and more. It has served as a job creator, rebuilt struggling downtown squares, and reminded people why they are passionate about this part of Colorado.
January marked the end of the program at both MCC and NJC, and each school hosted a business plan competition for the class participants, with winners receiving a portion of $25,000. Each student wrote a business plan, incorporating all they had learned through the course of the semester. Business plans were judged on overall content, grammatical accuracy, budgets, financial projections, a market analysis, and general community impact. Since completing the program, many of the students hired new employees for their businesses after seeing their budgets with new eyes, moved their storefronts to the historic downtown, and realized the true impact they each could have on the community they call home.
2013 Winners from NJC:
Blue Spruce Painting (Holyoke) - $10,000
Colorado Caring Consultants (Wray) – $6,500
Pretty Paws Mobile Pet Grooming (Flemming)- $3,500
Dally Up (Julesburg) - $2,500
Gidget’s Hair Salon (Flemming) - $2,500
2013 Winners from MCC:
Beck’s Barber Shop - $10,000
Colorado Mobile Drug Testing - $8,000
Impressions by Bird - $7,000