As each new cohort enters the Self-Employment Workshop Program in Tampa, Florida, facilitator Carol Minor sets the tone by knighting the participants as finishers.
“You can’t do anything halfway,” she tells the group with her trademark spunk. “You can shift and pivot, but you can’t start something and not see it through.”
Minor starts on an upbeat note, but she’s a realist. She knows not everyone will finish the first eight sessions, where she draws the content from the Ice House curriculum. Let alone will they finish the full 39-hour program with a full slate of assignments in topics like marketing, bookkeeping, financing, credit, and business planning, plus a final presentation. Still, she urges them to prioritize their business startups. So, for example, she requires attendance as a way to “show them the ups and downs and the sacrifices they’ll need to make,” she explained.
Minor directs the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County, which provides no-cost consulting and professional training to entrepreneurs and small business startups. It’s located at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, established by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Department in 2014 to provide one-stop access to business services providers, resources, mentorship, and specialty training.
Exciting Entrepreneurship Programming
The Self-Employment Workshop Program grew out of Minor’s project during her Ice House facilitation training in 2017. Through her own experiences as a small business founder and other career moves such as banking and microlending, she recognized that some would-be entrepreneurs don’t have a solid concept or a clearly defined niche.
“Often, people will launch something because they want to own a small business, but without a need, they won’t be successful,” Minor said. “The entrepreneurial mindset resonated with me because helping people to understand how their life affects how they make decisions—how they see themselves—was important to me.”
That’s why the program starts by exploring the Ice House definition of entrepreneurship as the self-directed pursuit of opportunities. These opportunities create value for others rather than focusing on the business aspects first. “It makes you look at everything around you—the environment you’re in and the people you’re with—and not just focus on the money,” Minor explained. “Of course, you know you need to have money, but if the mindset is not correct, you could wind up misusing or misappropriating your money.”
Nuances Within Entrepreneurship
The Florida SBDC of Hillsborough County provides consulting and training to companies with sales from $0 to $25 million in all stages of operation. These companies from startups to established companies, across various industries. The five consultants see more than 1,300 clients annually. The eight facilitators will train close to 2,600 people in workshops and classes throughout 2022.
Minor is optimistic that more fields are placing value on business education. For example, newly minted pharmacists and physicians are more likely to receive training about managing independent practices. Because, too often, they’re not equipped ahead of time for that critical aspect of their work.
She’s also optimistic about growing awareness of the distinctions between types of startups:
- Some people aspire to own small businesses. They may intend to scale them up in size, but they’re not looking to grow their scope of offerings.
- Others go about things a bit differently. They’re constantly looking for problems to solve to bring in additional revenue and diversify. They’re also more likely to start businesses and sell them to move on to new ventures.
Both groups can benefit from an entrepreneurial mindset—and so can those who never go into self-employment. “Another thing I like about the Ice House program is that while we’re helping people become entrepreneurs, we’re also creating better employees, too,” Minor said. “When a person is not able to go into business for themselves, they absolutely have a better appreciation for what it takes to run a business.”
Teaching By Example
Minor has woven in and out of self-employment during her career, including 20 years running her own company. As much as she enjoys what she does now with the Florida SBDC of Hillsborough County, she’s also looking ahead to retirement in a couple of years. She sees it as a chance to continue the work she loves, but on her own terms.
“Running my business gave me confidence,” she reflected. “I learned how to make money from my skills.” Her current goal is to impart that sense of self-efficacy to the participants in the Self-Employment Workshop Program. In retirement, she plans to consult with organizations that fund entrepreneurship, do mission work, and reach out to those who’ve experienced natural disasters—all too common in Florida—to help them turn devastation into opportunity.
“I love [teaching about] the locus of control because it helps you understand what you can control and what you can’t,” Minor said. “But you find out you have more control than you thought. And, if you don’t have control because of the circumstances you’re in, you learn what you need to do to change it.”