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LeMoyne-Owen College, City of Memphis partner to aid small business owners

LeMoyne-Owen College and the city of Memphis Office of Business Diversity and Compliance have partnered to form the Memphis Small Business Development Partnership to provide support to aspiring business owners in the Mid-South. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates 20 percent of small businesses close within the first year of operation.

The collaboration is designed to address the gap in education in entrepreneurship that contributes to small businesses failing prematurely. A suite of courses will educate business owners on how to effectively operate and sustain a successful business. 

The City of Memphis Office of Business Diversity & Compliance (OBDC) provides technical and management assistance to existing small businesses and prospective business owners by offering no-cost, one-on-one business advising, and educational training to small businesses targeted for increasing employment, fostering growth, and improving financial stability.

“The City of Memphis is very intentional about what we are doing,” said Marvell Mitchell, OBDC director, at Wednesday’s rollout. “We are working alongside LeMoyne Owen College (LOC) to make sure you have all the tools necessary when you decide to go into business to insure your success.”

The rollout event is an ambitious, joint effort to certify business owners and aspiring business owners for a successful pursuit of their entrepreneurial dreams.

“We have a goal of creating 500 new businesses, and we already have 254,” said Mitchell. “LOC has the educational structure already in place, and we work with women and minorities to train and prepare business owners. The partnership just makes sense.”

Marvell Mitchell, the City of Memphis’ OBDC director: “We are working alongside LeMoyne Owen College (LOC) to make sure you have all the tools necessary when you decide to go into business to insure your success.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Mitchell said the free certification program will help business start-ups with the tools necessary to work with the city on upcoming development projects.

 “Let me tell you something,” Mitchell said. “All of the developments going on in Memphis, there are not enough vendors out here to handle all of the business that’s going to be available, that’s coming. We see a tidal wave of business that’s coming. We just need to make sure we get the folks on the other side, which are local, small businesses ready for these things.”

The course design for the Memphis Small Business Development Partnership is comprised of five main courses, and the initiative will begin in January 2023. The courses are:

*Starting a Small Business

*Marketing and Management Structure

*Managing Financial Capital

*Business Ethics and Social Responsibility  (Lab Work)

*Completing a Business Plan

Dr. Charles Needham, the program designer and instructor for the business curriculum, explains the significance of each of the five required classes. (Photos: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Each course is five weeks in length, and the successful completion of all courses will earn a student a clear pathway to certification as a qualified vendor eligible to secure big-dollar contracts with the city. 

“Entrepreneurship is a key factor in community and personal wealth-building,” said LeMoyne Owen College President Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs. 

“We are excited to partner with the City of Memphis in this endeavor. It is gratifying to be a part of helping small businesses sustain and thrive through business education.”

According to LeMoyne Owen College Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Dr. Lisa Lang, the school’s partnership with the Office of Business Diversity and Compliance, aligns perfectly with their objectives.

“Being an institution of higher learning, we are vested in our students’ success,” said Lang. “We are committed to providing equitable access to learning environments that support diverse populations. We want to deliver programs which promote progression, affordability, and employability.”

Small Business Association (SBA) representatives talk with students about the services and assistance the agency provides to both new and existing businesses. (Photos: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Bennett-Fairs said the collaboration just made sense for both the college and the city.

“In higher education today, we have to adjust to the needs of prospective constituencies,” Bennett-Fairs said. So everyone isn’t interested in earning an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Some are interested in specialized training, and this partnership was a way to pool resources.… We can create a pipeline to OBDC and its constituencies with these classes.”

Bennett-Fairs said a collaboration with Mitchell’s office devised the “suite of courses” needed for successful businesses which are certified to work with the city.

Lang said the partnership helps to rebrand the college in the community, informing them of new and innovative programs available at LOC. Moving forward, Lang said the college wants to grow more partnerships with industries, community organizations, and businesses to continue growing opportunities for students. 

Mitchell said the goal is to mentor every student through to certification and successfully establish businesses that are sustainable beyond the first five years.

“This is not only about creating wealth as you raise a family,” said Mitchell. “This is about creating generational wealth so that you can leave something for your children. Our partnership is the beginning of changing the trajectory of so many lives in our community. We have many, many success stories to prove it.”


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