Like many other great ideas, this one fell to the earth in a soft and subtle way, almost drifting past our ears on the wind. Little did we know what we had awakened.
Staring down at my hometown street of Southern Pines, NC, I mused about all the years we had been together. From elementary school through high school, the kids and I walked downtown, shopped the corner gas station for snacks, ordered milkshakes from the Ice Cream Shop and labored over book reports and homework projects at the public library. I grew up with this town; I had spent my whole life getting to know it.
That day I was meeting a gal-pal of mine, Kathleen, for coffee at a local cafe/local-goods shop. We had ways got along and randomly chose this time, after having known each other for about three years, to become bonafide friends.
What we’ve learned—for free—is too valuable to pass up.
We took our coffees out on the road and walked up and down Broad Street looking into all the shops—talking, dreaming. We stopped in front of a children’s store. She had always wanted a children’s store and had a professional background in buying for retail stores on the West coast. She was the yin to my yang. She was creative, artsy, visual, and hip—as we all know the West is a good three years ahead of the East! And I’m booky and mathy, as well as a seasoned manager.
We saw each other reflected on the glass while we looked inside the store.
“Do you want to open a baby and maternity store with me?” I asked. I don’t even remember thinking it, I only remember having said it.
“Yes,” she said.
As I had mentally prepared for a moment just like this over the years, I knew exactly where to start.
Our local community college, Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, NC, has a great Small Business Center complete with free business classes offered to aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners. My boyfriend and I had taken a six-week series a year before but as there’s no limit to the number of times you can take the classes, Kathleen and I decided to take them too.
Through my community college’s Small Business Center, we learned the basics like writing a business plan as well as how to approach bankers, lawyers, accountants and insurance professionals. Then there are the SCORE volunteers we work with—lovely folks who provide mentoring services to soon-to-be business owners for free.
Although it’ll be a year in August since we first accessed all these great resources, they’re still available to us today. What’s even better is that the mentors we’ve met through the programs are still actively helping us along the way. These types of programs are common among community colleges across America. Take it from us: What we’ve learned—for free—is too valuable to pass up.
Here’s your checklist:
- Check out your local community college to see if they offer free business classes like the ones we took.
- Find your local SCORE chapter (here’s mine!) and take advantage of what experienced, supportive business mentors can teach you.
- Check out the U.S. Small Business Administration website for events and services in your area.
- Don’t forget to google your local Chamber of Commerce: They’re set up to help local business grow and prosper.
These resources have definitely helped us in the embryonic stages of building our baby and maternity business. Are there any great resources we missed? Please share them in the comments!