Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship
Business Resource Alliance
The Business Resource Alliance is working to develop a comprehensive, integrated network of the North Carolinians who support entrepreneurship: business service providers, community-based champions for small business, adult and youth entrepreneurship educators, and entrepreneurs themselves. Membership includes more than 60 organizations statewide. See list of members.
The alliance meets quarterly over lunch at various locations in the Research Triangle area. Meetings usually include a brief presentation by the host organization with discussion afterward, updates around the table and reports from working groups or regional entrepreneurship networks.
The organizational structure is informal, with coordination provided by the Rural Center. It offers an e-mail listserv, to which any member may post.
Interested in joining or attending?
Alliance membership is open to nonprofit and private business resource providers. Meetings usually include lunch ($10) and are open to supporters of entrepreneurship. For more information on meetings or joining the listserv, contact Barry Ryan at the Rural Center.
Several dozen organizations provide technical support, education and financial assistance to North Carolina's small- to medium-size businesses, but entrepreneurs are often stymied as they try to understand which providers offer the right services for them. As it launched the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship, the Rural Center recognized the need to provide a more transparent and responsive system of business services. For this purpose, it convened the first meeting of the Business Resource Alliance in August 2003. The alliance initially had a rural focus but now includes statewide participation.
Milestones and activities
Building North Carolina's Economic Future through New Enterprise Creation and Small Business Development. The alliance position paper, issued in April 2005, calls for a regular high-profile event celebrating entrepreneurship statewide and increased investments to support North Carolina's entrepreneurial service organizations.
Rural Entrepreneurship Development System projects. Work by about two dozen alliance members resulted in a three-year, $2 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation to work on community networks that support the development of entrepreneurs and their job-creating ventures. A subsequent project extends the effort in northeastern and southeastern North Carolina. Other regional groups such as the Upper Coastal Plain Rural Entrepreneurial Network and the Greensboro Small Business Consortium have similar formats to the alliance. Representatives of these groups usually attend alliance meetings.
Hop on the Bus! business plan competition. One goal of entrepreneurship systems is to build a region’s pipeline of entrepreneurial talent, including young people. A team including the Rural Center, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, NC REAL Enterprises and 4-H Youth Development started the Hop on the Bus! competition in 2006. The competition invites high school students from across the state to learn about entrepreneurship and develop plans for putting innovative ideas into action. Initially, the competition was held annually. In the 2010-11 school year, it will be offered each semester.
New collaborations. Two of the state’s major business support systems — the Small Business and Technology Development Center of the University of North Carolina System and the Small Business Center Network of the North Carolina Community College System — held their first joint professional development conference in October 2007 in New Bern. They also have adopted the same business tracking systems to allow consistency of data reports. Those two systems, the Rural Center and several other organizations are key partners in Business Link North Carolina, the toll-free call center and website for business inquiries managed by the N.C. Department of Commerce. Business Link North Carolina leaders credit the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance with fostering a strong collaboration among all the agencies that receive state funding to provide business development assistance.
Resource databases. Alliance partners have developed better materials about where to find business resources and are expanding a Web-based tool for entrepreneurs called the Resource Navigator. The tool, which allows queries by zip code, was designed in the Kansas City region with funding from the Kauffman Foundation. It is now used in Kansas and several other states to help entrepreneurs find nearby resources. Leaders in the Charlotte region launched Resource Navigator under an initiative called BizHub. With assistance from the Rural Center, alliance partners have expanded the Resource Navigator’s North Carolina database to include business resources in the Triangle, High Country and most of eastern North Carolina. The Navigator may be accessed at www.ucpbdc.com through the “Find a Resource” link. The goal is to expand the database to include public and nonprofit agencies in every region of the state and then promote it through the alliance and Business Link North Carolina networks. To add information on your organization, contact Barry Ryan.