Idea Start-up

Posted on Jun 1, 2011 :: Up Front
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

The University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Small Business Development Center has a new option for dislocated workers thinking about starting up their own business.

The center teamed up with the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board, the Bay Area Workforce Development Board and the SCORE Fox Cities Chapter to offer the Kauffman FastTrac NewVenture program. The program is designed especially for people in the early stages of business development and helps them uncover the answers they need to start a successful company, says Bob O’Donnell, director of UW-Oshkosh’s Small Business Development Center.

“This is more than just a class where they come to work on a business plan. We pair students up with mentors and expose them to experts in various fields so they can hear directly from them about what they need to know and do to be a success,” he says.

Thanks to a state grant, the program is being offered free to 20 dislocated workers in Northeast Wisconsin. UW-Oshkosh is one of only three sites in Wisconsin picked to pilot this project. The 30-hour course normally costs $750.

The FastTrac NewVenture program combines in-class instruction, including hearing from industry experts, with out-of-class time with an appointed mentor. O’Donnell says participants need to be committed to spending about 30 hours outside of class during the 10-week session preparing for upcoming classes, meeting with mentors and business coaches and writing a business plan.
SCORE Fox Cities provides the mentors for FastTrac NewVenture students.

“From day one, everyone in the class will be paired up with a mentor. This will allow time for relationships to grow and provide an easier transition for these entrepreneurs when they leave the class to actually go out and start their business,” says Jothi Nedungadi, leader of the SCORE Fox Cities Chapter and a small business owner herself.

Nedungadi says SCORE chapters in other parts of the country found success when pairing up mentors with students at the start of an entrepreneurial program.

“As for why we got involved, it just made sense. This program requires mentors and we’re the mentor organization. It’s a great fit,” she says.

Students will take a hard look at their ideas and develop a market needs assessment as part of putting a business plan together, O’Donnell says. “Ideally, we would love it if some students drop out before the end of the 10-week program because they are already out there starting and running their business. We’re providing a real workshop where they can work on their business,” he says.

O’Donnell says FastTrac NewVenture is the first of several Kauffman programs the center will be offering area entrepreneurs. This fall, a course called GrowthVenture will be offered to second-stage entrepreneurs who are ready to take that next step and expand their business. Then in January, TechVenture will be offered to tech entrepreneurs.

“Both courses will work the same way FastTrac does – there will be an in-class component, but then there will also be time spent out of class with a mentor working on real-world issues,” O’Donnell says.