The Fox School of Business will open a second Small Business Development Center at the Ambler Campus on March 20.
The center, which has provided entrepreneurial services to 532 North Philadelphia companies at its location on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 15th Street since 1983, will expand to the Ambler Campus in honor of National Small Business and Development Centers Day, said Maura Shenker, the center’s director.
The Ambler branch will feature the center’s first veteran-specific small business program, which will be free to those who served in the United States military, Shenker added. The program typically has a cost for non-veteran business owners.
“Temple Ambler has graciously given us half the library building,” Shenker said. “…We’re going to work with veterans who have not yet started their business.”
At the Ambler location, veterans will be given office space, technology, business planning advisement, writing classes and advice from business experts to help them transition from military to civilian life, Shenker said.
“Many of the skills you learn in the military are great entrepreneurship skills, like the self-discipline needed,” Shenker added. “We hope that by creating a community and walking them through the process of starting a business and being there, we can help them start their business.”
Fox will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Ambler Campus library, where the new business development center will be housed, on March 20 at 3 p.m. to celebrate the second location’s opening.
The center near Main Campus conducted 4,616 consulting hours in 2018, offering 67 different seminars and workshops, run by Fox faculty, Shenker said. Businesses in all stages are welcome to attend, including startups and ongoing businesses, and nearly 1,000 representatives attended sessions last year, she added.
After the sessions, the center’s clients receive one-on-one management and business consulting, where Fox faculty look over client business plans and provide financial, marketing and growth strategies for each small business owner.
Graduate students from several colleges also serve as volunteer consultants. Beasley School of Law students give free legal assistance to clients, including tax ramifications, contracts, partnership agreements, leases and intellectual property laws.
Tim Bennett, a 2009 MBA alumnus, worked at the center as an undergraduate in 2004 and later returned as a client with his own small business, Bennett Compost, a Philadelphia composting service.
“I saw that they’re good at a lot of things that when you’re starting a business you need help with, and there are a lot of good services there,” Bennett said. “You can take advantage of that. You’re paying nominal fees for what you’re getting, which is invaluable.”
North Philadelphia business owner Trina Worrell-Benjamin worked with the center in 2016 to launch her company TWB Cleaning Contractors, an industrial cleaning and floor maintenance service on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 15th.
The center helped Worrell-Benjamin develop her company handbook, policies and procedures, marketing and advertising efforts, she said. Law professors and students also gave her legal advice, business consulting and strategies to secure funding.
The center has relationships with several community banks, Shenker said, and led entrepreneurs to access more than $3.1 million in 2018.
“I didn’t want to just start a business, I wanted to build a company for longevity,” Worrell-Benjamin said. “…Not only did they help me start a business, they helped me grow my business as well.”
Worrell-Benjamin started her business with only one employee, she said, but because of the center’s services, she now employs six part-time workers from the North Philadelphia community.
“Small business is what drives the economy here,” Shenker said. “A lot of those business are owned by immigrants, or a lot of them were owned by underestimated entrepreneurs, especially in our area around Main Campus.”
“They may not have friends or family who can help them fund their business to begin with and they may not have the traditional assets,” she added.
The center is also in the process of opening a global branch on Main Campus, where it will welcome small European companies interested in entering the American market, said Karl Kraus, the center’s senior business consultant.
The branch will allow companies to learn and study American business practices, he added. Fox’s Main Campus center will host its first client from France later this month and two other European clients are set to visit this year.
“We bring a lot of business knowledge, education and experience to companies in the community,” Kraus said. “…We can open those resources to our clients as well, which a lot of clients rave about.”