As the Manatee Chamber of Commerce prepares for the 36th Annual Manatee Small Business of the Year Awards, recognizing the important role small businesses play in maintaining a healthy and strong economy, we reflect on the important role of entrepreneurship in our community. We are focusing on how we can elevate support of small businesses through support for entrepreneurs.
According to Webster's dictionary, an entrepreneur is a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money. These are our small business owners, the life-blood of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. and local economy. There are 28 million small businesses in the United States and 93 percent of the Manatee Chamber's membership is made up of small businesses.
Integral to the mission of the Manatee Chamber is serving small businesses. This year we are taking a number of steps to strengthen our business community and enhance the business development services offered to entrepreneurs.
The Manatee Chamber is working with a number of community partners to support a community wide not-for-profit Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE). The CFE is a partnership of organizations offering a broad range of services applicable to all stages of business growth and development, from the individual considering the start of a business to the growing business owner. The chamber thinks growing entrepreneur resources in Manatee County will help attract and retain talent and result in new business start-ups and growth.
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The CFE, through community partners such as Inspiration Academy, Station 2 Innovation Center, Cincinnati Christian University, SCORE, among others, will provide boot camps, education, mentorship, business incubation/accelerators, co-working environments and the potential for investor capital. Services and programs will evolve as we continue to assess the business needs in our community.
Recognizing the quality academic institutions in the area, CFE will direct entrepreneurs toward programing at State College of Florida, Manatee Technical College, The University of South Florida, New College, Ringling College and Keiser University, among others. Also, taking into account the importance in fostering entrepreneur
skills for the youth, the chamber is partnering with Bright House Networks on its Bright Ideas STEM program for young people with great ideas.
The chamber's Small Business Council will have an important support role with these emerging entrepreneur resources. This will be one of many of our objectives as we continue to adapt to meet the needs of small and emerging businesses. Additionally, the chamber's Small Business Council plans to expand our CEO Roundtable program to include a management-level roundtable geared toward senior leadership within local organizations.
As the Manatee Chamber and our Small Business Council build partnerships with community organizations, we are ensuring our small businesses and entrepreneurs have an integrated system to connect our members to business and individual development services that may prove vital to success.
Robert P. Bartz, president, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at BobB@ManateeChamber.com.