The Amazing Entrepreneur Contest turns small business dreams into a reality
Aspiring entrepreneurs are choosing Gwinnett County to launch new businesses – and its easy to see why. The community has many excellent amenities and features that attract medium and large businesses – the schools, the parks, the workforce, the quality of life, and so on. But what may not be as easy to see from outside is the rich tapestry of resources available to help small businesses start up and grow.
Gwinnett Chamber Economic Development conducts an annual entrepreneur contest, now in its second year, which is specifically designed for new businesses. Benny StaRomana, founder of SantaRomana and Associates, a business consulting firm in Gwinnett, walked away with the top prize at the inaugural Amazing Entrepreneur business plan competition last year, and now reports that his business is thriving.
“Anyone starting a business needs to consider Gwinnett as a home base, and to join the Gwinnett Chamber as an essential first step,” StaRomana said. “The Chamber leverages the county’s many varied resources through networking events, forums, exhibits, and competitions to provide the best possible environment for the business owner to succeed. I joined one such competition, the 2011 Amazing Entrepreneur, and won the grand prize. The publicity generated for my company by the contest, combined with the contacts I gained from the Chamber events, has created enough business to be at 100 percent capacity after just six months.”
Article written January 2012
The second annual Amazing Entrepreneur Contest – a business plan competition – kicked off just a few weeks ago, and this year’s contest features an exciting list of prizes, including a cash award of $2,500. In addition to providing a financial boost to the winner’s business, the contest is a way for Gwinnett Chamber Economic Development to engage with entrepreneurs, inform them about available services available, hear their concerns and issues, and impress upon startups the importance of crafting a thoughtful and thorough business plan.
Of course, not every business can win a contest, but every small business gain assistance from the Small Business Development Center. The SBDC, a collaboration between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University System of Georgia, offers classes and one-on-one consultation to small businesses for low cost, or in some cases, free.
For technology companies, Gwinnett is fortunate to have a special relationship with Georgia Tech’s world renowned incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). As part of its efforts in the County, the ATDC puts on a gathering of tech entrepreneurs – the ATDC Gwinnett Startup Circle – the first and third Friday of every month at The Work Spot on Main Street in Duluth. Chip Schooler, the ATDC’s Community Catalyst for Gwinnett, sees great potential for continued technology development in the area.
“Gwinnett County has a rich history of supporting tech startup development, so I am excited to be working with the entrepreneurial and startup community here,” said Schooler. “ATDC provides entrepreneurs with knowledge, experience and networking opportunities to help them build and launch successful technology companies. The Gwinnett Startup Circle was created to cultivate development and support small businesses; therein, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to meet with seasoned startup veterans, domain experts and other area entrepreneurs.”
The Chamber also conducts a program designed to help businesses learn and develop strategies to foster efficiency and growth. The Gwinnett Business Institute offers sessions on government contracting, sales, leadership, finance, branding, and more.
As part of our efforts to build on the already robust climate of entrepreneur tools and resources in the County, Gwinnett Chamber Economic Development formed an Entrepreneur Council this year to act as an advisory board and channel for distribution of information among its members. A cross section of organizations and institutions in the County and region that are invested in entrepreneurship are represented on the Council. Its purposes include creating a “no wrong door” system wherein entrepreneurs will find out about all the resources available when they reach out to anyone. The system strives to make sure that no good business idea falters because of lack of information or connection to a support service.
The newly formed Entrepreneur Council is also quickly gaining momentum locally. The group is collectively working alongside Gwinnett Chamber Economic Development staff to hone-in on outlining all of the resources available to startups within the community, and beyond. The Small Business Resource Guide, slated for its debut this spring, promises to be a comprehensive source of reputable, updated information for all the needs of a small business – from financing to business licensing, to education and networking with peers and potential clients.
As the Gwinnett Chamber Economic Development team begins to implement Partnership Gwinnett’s second five-year strategic plan this year, it will continue to look for best practices and innovative ways to help startups and small businesses succeed.