Award Provides More Services for Business Incubator

by Diane VanDyke

The Coleman Foundation recently awarded Montgomery County Community College with a $12,500 grant to fund additional consulting services for the entrepreneurs of the College’s business incubator of the new Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (CES).

“Entrepreneurs will receive valuable consulting services that will impact critical business decisions and greatly influence their day-to-day operations,” said Dr. Amit B. Singh, Dean of the Business and Computer Science Division at the College. “These critical consulting services will assist entrepreneurs who may not have the funds available to obtain professional counseling and most importantly could make the difference between the success and failure of their firms.”

The grant was awarded at the 8th Annual National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship Conference in October. Thirty-six colleges from 24 states submitted applications for the grant, and representatives from 18 of those colleges, including Dr. Singh, were selected to give a three-minute elevator pitch.

The Coleman Foundation, a private grant-making foundation that provides funds to educational institutions offering entrepreneurship education, awarded grants to nine community colleges. The grant is for $7,500 in base funding and an additional $5,000 in matching funds. Colleges have to secure financial commitments totaling $5,000 to receive the matching funds.

“We are close to reaching this amount and are optimistic that we will raise the matching funds by the Dec. 1 deadline,” said CES Director Ayisha Sereni, who indicated that both the college and business communities are enthusiastic and supportive of this entrepreneurial initiative.

Since the CES opened in August, its external partners—the Small Business Administration and SCORE—have offered workshops, counseling, mentoring and seminars to new and existing business owners that include CES incubator tenants, students and members of the community. These services will continue in conjunction with the new consulting services, all of which are free to CES incubator tenants.

One of the key assets of a business incubator is the support services it provides to new and fledgling businesses that may prevent the costly mistakes of inexperience of new entrepreneurs.

“There is a growing interest in support services,” Dr. Singh said. “Because of the increasing demand for the SCORE counseling, we had to add a second day to accommodate the requests.”

The Coleman Foundation Elevator grant will fund consulting services in four areas: accounting, technology, legal issues and marketing. The services will be available starting this month through December 2011.  When the business incubator is fully occupied, the CES will be able to continue these services through rental income.

The support schedule to date includes accounting services on Mondays from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. with accounting instructor Karen Green, who has more than 15 years of controller/vice president experience with a private firm. Part-time faculty member Sergio Carbone, who is a full-time consultant for Fortune 500 companies, will offer technology services on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Consultants for legal issues and marketing will soon be on board to provide weekly services, too.

Business incubator tenant Matthew Chalal, President of Banner Industries LLC, appreciates the counseling SCORE representatives provided to him and looks forward to using the new consulting services.

“This has been a good fit from the beginning,” he said, noting that the move to the CES incubator allowed him to take his business to the next level. “Having my office here is affordable and gives me the ability to meet with clients and have support staff to assist me.”

After forming Banner Industries in 2007, Chalal spent three years researching and developing the Flashcar Math Learning Game, an educational, fun tool that helps elementary school age children improve their math skills. He launched the online version of the game this year and recently moved into the CES incubator to grow and further expand his business.

For more information about the business incubator and its services, contact the CES Director Ayisha Sereni at or 215-461-1147.

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