Curriculum and Resources 2015

 Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship - Winter 2015

We concluded the first ever edition of the Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship at Dewey Hall on Tuesday, April 14th at 5:30 pm.  We will offer the course again starting in January of 2016. In the meantime, you can access the resources from the class below. Contact info for mentors, advisors, and facilitators may be found here.


Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four | Week Five Week Six |Week Seven |Week Eight| Guidelines for Final Presentation


Entrepreneurial Apprentices each received 250 BerkSharesAs part of the initiative for Community Supported Industry, the Railroad Street Youth Project, BerkShares, Inc., the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, Berkshire Community College, and the Berkshire Regional Office of the Mass. Small Business Development Center Network are partnering to offer an Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship to Berkshire County youth in the winter of 2015. The 8-week long Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship will focus on the following question: “What kind of businesses can young people start in the Berkshires by harnessing the available human and natural resources in a sustainable way?” The course will emphasize opportunities for import replacement in the essential areas of food, clothing, energy, transportation and shelter.

Throughout the course guest speakers from the local business community will offer stories from their own experience as inspiration to the budding entrepreneurs participating in the program. Other local business experts will present on particular subjects, such as marketing and bookkeeping. Yet others will serve as mentors to the participants as they develop their business ideas. Students that complete their business plans by the end of the course will receive an award of 200 BerkShares, which may be used toward the start-up of an enterprise. If a student decides not to pursue the business plan they develop, they can donate it to a library of ideas for businesses that are appropriate to the Berkshire economy.




Week One



Welcome Packet


Lesson on Import Replacement is available in three parts, including two presentations and one worksheet.

Import replacement brainstorming worksheet available for download here.


Week Two

Mass. Small Business Development Center Network's Berkshire Regional Office, using materials that were developed for this class by the MSBDC. Keith and Nancy introduced the Business Plan worksheet that students will be using to write their business plans thoughout the course.

Keith introduced the students to a Business Idea Evaluation worksheet that they can use to compare the strengths of their different business ideas. Nancy walked the students through the "narrative" part of the business plan, which describes the business model the entrepreneur has chosen. Keith presented the "financial data" part of the business plan, which describes the [b]financial model[/b] the entrepreneur has chosen. The charts he used to illustrate the concepts of working capital, the break-even point, and start up expenses are below. Two worksheets that Keith prepared to help calculate start up expenses and a budget are available here.

Notes from the class are below and the entire presentation is available for listening here:


What is a business?

A business involves the management of products, people and money and is defined by the transaction of goods and/or services between a seller and a buyer. There can be no business without a buyer.

So what do people want to buy?

The entrepreneur must make sure that there is a market for the product or service they want to buy. What people want to buy is a [b]benefit[/b], something that fulfills a need, a want, a demand or an aspiration. To have a market, goods or services offered must appeal to the needs of consumers.  The entrepreneur needs to ask “what is the need?” and “how many people need this product or service?” and “how much of this market can my business capture?  Business transactions involve not only money and goods and services, but also time and trust.

What’s the difference between a business and a hobby?

 A business needs to make a profit and should create a return on investment. Businesses may reflect the values and interests of a producer, but without a profit and a return on investments the action is simply a hobby. 

What is money?

Money is a tool in a business. The better you are at using it for leverage, the better your business will do. Personal financial habits can easily transfer over to your business habits. This can be a problem if those habits aren’t good ones. Preparation and business planning can help you achieve your business and personal goals.

How do you write a business plan?

Writing a business plan is a process involving creativity, research, financial planning, and talking to your friends, family, and advisors. A business plan doesn't happen all at once. It might take a period of incubation before you’re ready to write it all down.

How can small businesses succeed in our economy?

Support networks like the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center provide resources that allow business owners to make smarter business decisions.  Citizens can consciously choose to support locally owned businesses. When they do so, they support local jobs, local schools and infrastructure, and they contribute to the well being and vitality of their community. 


Week Three


In week three, Olivia Cobb was our guest speaker. She presented her business Treyson Racin' as an example of a business that grew out of the passion and skills that she and her husband share. Some of the takeaways from her presentation were the following:

  • You'll never be 100% ready to start a business. Plan as much as you can but don't be afraid to jump in and get started, (as long as you're willing to learn from your mistakes.)
  • It's important to be able to describe your business clearly. For example, Liv can name the "Sacred 5" pieces of her business.
  • Relationships with your customers, suppliers, competitors and fellow business people matter, big time.
  • You have to think creatively about marketing your business and finding (or building) your target market.
  • Learn from your competitors

After Liv's presentation students worked on describing their business idea. To do this, we broke into pairs and interviewed each other about our businesses.

Here are the interview questions we asked:

Q: What are you selling?

Q: What is your product or service? Or products or services?

Q: What does it look like?

Q: How is it packaged, served, or delivered?

Q: What inputs do you need?

Q: Who is buying? (what are their tastes, ages, socio economic status?)

Q: What need, want, demand, or aspiration are you meeting?

Q: How big is your market?

Q: Who else is doing a similar thing?

Q: How is your business different?

Q: What skills or experience do you have that will help you?


Please prepare a rough draft of your business description (part II. A. of the Business Plan Worksheet). Use the interview questions (attached and below) and push yourself to ask even more questions, then begin doing any research you can to answer those questions.



Week Four


In week four, Billie Best was our guest speaker.  She introduced the main concepts behind marketing.



Marketing Brainstorming Worksheet


Homework: Please (1) complete the marketing brainstorming worksheet and(2) write rough drafts for Section II, Parts B and C. (Target market and Competition). Note: In order to do both of these assignments you will first need to do some market research. Use the following tips to help you conduct market research:


Visit / learn about similar businesses (‘competitors’)

• strengths, weaknesses

• features, benefits 

• price points

• online presence


Conduct online research

 • find similar businesses and model yourself after them

 • find relevant trade associations, industry-specific associations 

 • find out about regulations and licenses that you will need (government websites)



Week Five


In week five, Michal Snyder was our guest speaker. She introduced the importance of bookkeeping and the main concepts behind bookkeeping for a small business.  You can listen to her presentation here:

Definition of bookkeeping: recording of financial affairs of a business

Why do we keep track of the financial transactions of a business?

Is your business solvent? Are you “making any money?” It can take awhile for a new business to see a profit… However, it is important to see where the business owner is making money, especially if there have multiple sources of income. For those interested in making products, or multiple products it’s important to separate out your income to see how much of your income is in X and how much is in Y. Or, which type of product sells the best.

When providing a service, separating out those sources of income will also be a valuable resource.  Seeing your income is one piece of the puzzle.  The other piece is knowing what your expenses are.  How much does it cost you to run your business? After you have been in business awhile, you can do a comparison of what your projected expenses were versus your actual expenses. But you can’t do a comparison if you don’t have a record of the numbers of what things actually cost you.

Investors may also want to see certain reports, like a Profit and Loss, which deals specifically with income and expenses.

Taxes: Another reason to keep track of your financial transactions is for tax purposes. As a business owner, you are required to file income taxes and the information you keep throughout the year will allow your accountant to prepare your taxes.

Documentation: QuickBooks and Quicken are two software programs that many small businesses use. These programs have the capability to provide reports in a quick and easy manner. You can also use spreadsheets.

Businesses have more than just income and expenses. They also have bank accounts and many have credit cards.  They have assetsor property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments and liabilities, which are a company's legal debts or obligations that arise during the course of business operations. These assets and liabilities are reflected on a balance sheet.


There are many other types of accounts all of which make up what we call the Chart of Accounts that are part of a general ledger. Most businesses keep their records by computer, but there was a time when they used an actual book called the general ledger, which had different pages for each account.

All of these accounts will need to be reconciled, at least on a monthly basis. Do you know why we reconcile accounts? Reconciliation is used to ensure that the money leaving an account matches the actual money spent. We do this so we can confirm that transactions, which have been entered in our businesses records, match the transactions, which entered the bank’s (or other institution’s) business records. You want to make sure deposits match and that you don’t overdraw your account.

What other types of accounts need to be reconciled? Some businesses may have a credit card and many businesses also have loans – lines of credit or private loan from an investor. You will want to keep track of how much money you borrow and how much you pay back – remember a portion of most loan payments goes towards interest expense while a portion goes towards the principal payment of the loan.

Accounts Receivable: Many of you may set up your good for sale in a shop or a market in which case people will pay you cash, credit or check. However, some of you may make arrangements where your customer picks up your goods and agrees to pay you at a later date. You have to work out the terms with these customers  - for example, say they have 30 days to pay you. At the end of 30 days, you want to have record of who has paid and who has not.

Accounts Payable:
Many of you making products will have to purchase materials that go directly into making that product. For example, wax for candles… While theses are expenses, we put them in a special category called Cost of Goods Sold, so that you can see how much you spend specifically on the goods it costs you to make a product. They are (or can be) separate from the expenses it costs to run a business. Regardless, all of your expenses and COGS come from vendors, who also expect you to pay within a certain time frame – 7 days, 30 days, 60 days, etc. How are you going to keep track of what bills have been paid and which bills have not?

Sales Tax:
In Mass, as with most states, there are certain items, which you are required to collect sales tax on when you sell them. For example, you sell an item for $100 and be required to collect sales tax on that item so you actually receive $106.25. Do you get to keep the $6.25? Who gets that money? The sales tax you collect is considered a liability until you pay it into the state. The $100 is your income, but not the $6.25. Some towns also have taxes, which are owed as well. It’s important to look into all the rules and regulations of the area in which you set up your business.

Payroll Taxes:
At some point, you may have employees and the same goes with payroll withholding taxes.  Employers are required by law to pay federal and state, as well as social security and Medicare taxes and often they have to match certain amounts withheld – it is part of the cost of having a business so those would be expenses (Payroll taxes) in your Chart of Accounts.


Sample reports:

Profit & Loss

Profit & Loss with "cost of goods" #1

Profit & Loss with "cost of goods" #2

Balance sheet


Week Six


Phyllis Webb of The Magic Fluke Company in Sheffield, MA has been in business manufacturing unique string instruments for 17 years.  This husband-wife pair have created a successful and sustainable business model of which they are proud.  As a trained mechanical engineer, husband Dale Webb used his skill set to manufacture a product that reflected their values of quality craftsmanship and locally made products.  Phyllis encouraged all to build an enterprise that showcases a story, not simply a product. 


This week Phyllis touched upon the ethics of labor and how to manage economies of scale to support a sustainable business.  


Tips for building a sustainable business:


Find ways to keep labor costs low and parts inexpensive - without sacrificing your principles

Manufacturing in the U.S. can be difficult, because it can be cheaper to manufacture overseas. The Magic Fluke has been able to compete by streamlining the production required to make a ukelele, so that they can pay a few people well to make the products, instead of paying many people poorly.  They have also looked for the best materials for their product that are still affordable, often cutting down on costs by choosing local vendors so that they do not have to pay for long-distance shipping.

Pay vendors fair prices and charge a fair price for your product

We often do not know the true value of products anymore because the supply chain has become so complicated. Transparency and communication are both important ways that you can help your customers understand the value of your product.  Know how much it costs to produce your product, and then you can charge a fair price to your customer.

Use local vendors/suppliers to keep costs low

A localized economy will employ local people and shorten shipping distances, stimulating regional economic growth and reducing externalties associated with a long supply chain.

Know your customer base

Understanding the needs of your community and being familiar with your clientele increases transparency and productivity.

Set yourself apart - be unique and diversify

There is a lot of competition within industries and innovation will help you stay ahead and find alternative opportunities in the market.

Communicate with your network 

It is important to be compensated for your hard work. Clear communications with your buyers will help you be paid for your product, and clear communications with your vendors will help you work well with them and ensure the stability of your business.

Maintain dedication to your values

Knowing your strengths will allow you lead your business in a professional and productive manner while promoting a product you can really stand behind. Keep the big picture in mind, don't lose sight of your values.


Week Seven

At this week’s class we had representatives from Salisbury Bank, Jody Law, Vice President of Commercial Lending and Sierra King-Watson, Commercial Credit Analyst.  As commercial lenders, the team at Salisbury Bank helps entrepreneurs to secure the kind of financial backing that they need to start up or expand their business.  Loan applicants are selected based on their credit worthiness and level of risk of their proposition.  There are a number of different types of loans that the bank offers, and the commercial lending officers can walk you through the reasons you might choose one over another.

There are also ways to fund your business that do not include commercial loans from banks. Crowd-sourcing has become a popular type of community-powered investment.  Sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe provide entrepreneurs opportunities to establish social capital in addition to financial capital.

In week two, Keith Girouard spoke to us about different structures a business can take, such as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation (LLC) and S- and C-corporations.  All have different tax implications and structures for the sharing of profits and the legal liabilities of ownership. 

While you’re writing your business plan and considering what kind financial support you might want to pursue in order to start up, it will help to understand the following basic financial terms:

capital: the excess of a company’s assets over its liabilities
interest: money paid regularly at a particular rate for the use of money lent, or for delaying the repayment of a debt. sometimes referred to as “the cost of money.”
principal: a sum of money lent or invested, upon which interest is paid
collateral: something pledged as security for the repayment of a loan, to be forfeited in the event of a default.
default: failure to fulfill an obligation of debt

When considering making a loan to a business, a commercial bank will want to see a strong business plan, an entrepreneur with experience in the field, and a good credit history. The bank will also take into consideration the type of collateral that the business can offer for the loan. 


Notes for the young entrepreneur: 1 2

Loan Application: Business Finances 1 2 3 4, Personal Finances 1 2

Application Checklist

Types of Loans


Week Eight


How to confidently pitch your business plan to investors (and everyone else!)

In preparation for the April 14th event, where students will present their business plans to the community, Erik Bruun, a local investor with roots in journalism, shared tips for selling a business plan through storytelling format.  

He suggested this list a good outline of questions to answer when you are giving a business plan presentation (from “10 Topics a Venture Capitalist Cares About”) :

  1. the problem – what is the problem you’re addressing? What makes it a problem?
  2. your solution – how do you intend to solve this problem?
  3. your business model – a detailed description of your solution in business terms – how does it work? how do you plan to make money?
  4. the underlying technology/magic – What is your value proposition?  Why will people care about this? What will happen behind the scenes? What will make your business work?
  5. marketing and sales plan – In what way will you market your product and/or service that will attract customers?
  6. your current and most relevant competition – acknowledge the competition in your industry.  How will you set yourself apart from your competition?
  7. your team – Who is the life force behind your product? What does your employment structure look like?
  8. projections and milestones, including budget/use of funds –How do you see your business growing? What do you want to accomplish?  How do you plan to use funds appropriately and productively? Create attainable goals.
  9. current project status and timeline – What is the current status of the project?  What is the timeline for investment?
  10. summary and call to action – Make a big ask: Will you fund this venture?  Restate what makes your business unique, profitable and worthy of investment.  

Erik and Alice offered the following tips and lessons learned:


** Make sure people understand the need that you’re addressing and that there are enough people out there who share the same need.
** Display your commitment to the business and make your motivation apparent.
** Put yourself in the listener’s shoes and think about what you would want to know about a business. (For example, product details, market, return on investment, return to community, story, team, business model, use of funds...)


** Consider using props (soap, mock-ups, etc...) remember Phyllis’ presentation?
** Think of your presentation as if you are telling a story.
** Sell yourself! When you believe in what you’re saying your presentation becomes so much stronger. Confidence is appealing.  Dress well, stand up straight, speak loudly.
** Practice talking about your business ahead of time, with your parents, friends, anyone.
** Have fun!


Guidelines for Final Presentations

Please include the following elements when presenting your business plan on April 14th:

•    What’s the problem or need your business is addressing? 
•    What’s your solution?
•    What’s your business model? How will your business work? How will your business make money?
•    What competition will your business have, and how will you distinguish your business? What’s your value proposition?
•    Who is your target market and how will you reach them?
•    What’s your team?  Why are you and the team qualified to run this business?
•    What are the first steps you would take to start up this business? How might it grow over time? What is your projected start-up costs or budget?
•    Summarize your business and why it’s going to be great!

* Presentations should be 3 minutes long. That’s not very long!

* Every business is different, so your presentation does not need to be exactly the same as everyone else’s.

* Don’t be afraid to get creative in the way you present your business plan.

* The structure of your presentation does not need to follow the order of the questions above, but it can if you want.