Young People Start to Work on Their Own Businesses

Planning on business: The business planning program for young people, which is presented by BerkShares in partnership with the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network's Berkshire Regional Office and in collaboration with Berkshire Community College's South County Center, has involved community members as mentors, teachers, and advisors for young entrepreneurs over the past two years. On Jan. 25, this year's program started off with a whole new level of community involvement.
Students in the program, who range in age from 14 to 27, are asked to write business plans that address gaps in the local economy, meeting needs for basic goods and services that we are currently importing to the region. This year, students will be given a boost as they begin to imagine these businesses; they will be able to refer to a set of business ideas generated by by members of the community from up and down the county.
These ideas were developed by participants in a series of workshops called "Bringing Buy Local Full Circle," which were co-facilitated this fall by BerkShares, Inc. and the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network. The two organizations collaborated with associations throughout the County to involve community members from all walks of life in a participatory approach to economic development.
The Adams Council on Aging, Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Manos Unidas’ Harvest of Hope Festival, the Alchemy Initiative’s Morningside Up coalition, and Berkshire Young Professionals all hosted workshops. The ideas that came out of each workshop reflected the particular contexts of the hosting groups; participants from different backgrounds identified different opportunities based on their own points of view.
Thanks to this input, students in Entry to Entrepreneurship will begin this year's program with a wider perspective on the market opportunities in the regional economy. Students have the option to choose one of these ideas to develop further into a business idea, or to use an idea of their own. At the end of the program, students will present their business plans to the public and receive 200 BerkShares in seed money. Presentations will take place on Wednesday, April 12, at 5:30 p.m. at Dewey Hall in Sheffield.


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