Interview: Entrepreneurial Center of University of Hartford

Making a difference in your community

The Entrepreneurial Center of the University of Hartford is celebrating its 30th year mark and the Women’s Business Center, one of their initiatives is also turning 15 years of assisting entrepreneurs from startup to expansion to make their vision a reality. This is a wonderful opportunity to interview the Director of the EC & the Women’s Business Center, Sandra Cahill. Along with Sandra, we interviewed Shelli McMillen, Marketing and Technical Assistance Program Manager and Milena Erwin, Program Manager from the Women’s Business Center.

 

-Please give us and overview of the Entrepreneurial Center of the University of Hartford (EC)

-The Entrepreneurial Center works with businesses from start up to expansion to help them reach their vision and provides counseling training, technical assistance, networking, mentoring, and support small business in a variety of ways. We have a special focus in minority and women in business; the largest initiatives of our Center are the women’s business center program and the Hartford Small Business Technical Assistance Program.

-What is the Hartford Small Business Technical Assistance Program (HSBTA)?

-The Hartford Small Business Technical Assistance Program is directed to businesses that have been establish for at least 1 year anywhere in Hartford in depth assistance, we help them in aspects such as marketing, financial management, business planning, human resources among others. In other words, whatever the business or entrepreneur needs may be provided by looking for resources. The objective of the program is to help them become well establish here, and strength their economic prospects. The program is founded by the City of Hartford.

-Is there any cost for people who would like to get assistance?

-There is a $100.00 registration fee and there are some requirements for eligibility, but after that is free and they can be in the program for a couple of years and reach a number of goals. We start with an assessment, to see where the business level is, some of them are just beginning, so they have to learn a lot of things, however we make it easier for them.

-How many businesses are you currently helping through the HSBTAP?

-About 90 businesses in the last few years.

-As you mentioned that the HSBTAP is being funded by the City of Hartford, is it just for Hartford businesses?

-The business has to be located in Hartford; however the owner could live in other town.

-Your webpage www.hartford.edu/ec has more information about these programs?

-Yes, it has sections about the different programs we have here.

 -If someone is interested to take a workshop, is there a membership cost?

-No, there is not an official membership here, they become center clients. We have counseling clients and training clients. We have around 150 classes a year that they can register to or they can just make an appointment with an advisor.

-What is the Women Business Center (WBC)?

-The Women Business Center is the largest initiative and federally funded agency by the SBA. Every state has a center, traditionally is a place where every woman has access to training and classes. We also have programs for them.

-Can you get a certification with the WBC or any of your programs?

-Not with the WBC but for some programs we do offer certifications.

-Do you currently have Latino business enroll at EC?

-Yes, around 10-15% are Hispanic businesses.

-How many employees work here?

-We have 4 full time and 3 part time and some independent workers.

-Tell us about the event to celebrate your big milestone.

-It is a free event and it is happening on November 12 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. You have to register by calling 860-768-5681 or online at Hartford.edu/anniversary.  We will have a business showcase open to the public. Businesses will be selling products and we are going to have a keynote speaker and more.

-What is the turnout expected for the event?

-200 people but we have plenty of room for standing.

-Will there be bilingual (Spanish-English) assistance?

-Yes, Shelly & Milena which are part of the staff.

-Sandy, tells us about your experience working at EC & WBC and what do you want to see in the future happening here.

-The program has changed in the last 30 years. We started as a visionary group. This was a Hartford College for Women; we did a lot of business for planning education. In 1999 we were awarded funding from the SBA as a women’s center. Over the last 5 years we were working with companies trying to get better through all this time. Also we have been working more with the social media aspect. And I think just doing what we are doing, helping the community, providing what they need, giving them the support in the way we can do. Also, the center is for men and women, even though we have a special focus on women, but the services are good and we trying to help people who knock on our door.

-What has been your personal reward from working at this place?

-Shelly:  Having the impact in the community.

- Sandy: The reward thing for me is helping business owners, see them making decisions by their own.

-Milena: The most rewarding thing to me is seeing them successful, and making a difference.

By Elaine Rosales (ewritermx@gmail.com).

 

* The Entrepreneurial Center (EC) is part of the University of Hartford's Barney School of Business, named one of the nation's most outstanding business schools by The Princeton Review. The EC is located at 1265 Asylum Avenue Hartford, CT 06105. It provides language assistance services which can be available for limited English proficient individuals
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