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Alcorn State, Natchez Inc. offer free business seminars

JAY SOWERS/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Teri Roddy, left, owner of Patina Home, an interior design and decorative studio in Natchez, talks with Missy Brown while leading a class at her Union Street store Friday morning. Roddy has put into use at her business some of the lessons she learned at a previous Entrepreneur Academy she attended.  She plans to attend the upcoming Entrepreneur Explosion as well.
JAY SOWERS/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Teri Roddy, left, owner of Patina Home, an interior design and decorative studio in Natchez, talks with Missy Brown while leading a class at her Union Street store Friday morning. Roddy has put into use at her business some of the lessons she learned at a previous Entrepreneur Academy she attended. She plans to attend the upcoming Entrepreneur Explosion as well.

NATCHEZ — Big things start small, and occasionally a small idea blows up in a big way.

That’s the core thought behind the Entrepreneur Explosion, a free regional small business summit that will be at the Natchez Convention Center from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 23.

During the last year, Natchez Inc., Alcorn State University and the Mississippi Development Authority have teamed up in an effort to support the formation of new small businesses and continued operation of existing businesses through several educational initiatives.

“Small businesses are truly not only the backbone of our economy in Mississippi and the county, but they can be the launching pad for something bigger and better, because all businesses start out small,” said Ruth Nichols, Alcorn’s assistant vice president for educational and community partnership. “Those businesses need community, grassroots support.

“Natchez Inc. has done a good job with recruiting industrial commitments, but we also have a commitment to our home grown talent, and that is what this is all about.”

Teri Roddy, owner of Patina Home, said she attended one of the small business initiatives the economic development coalition offered last year, the Entrepreneur’s Academy, even though she was not sure what it would offer her as the owner of an existing small business.

The academy was able to offer her answers to legal questions and ways to save money on things like liability insurance.

“I am one of these people who, no matter how long you have been doing something, you can always learn more,” Roddy said. “I wanted to make sure I was going to be (at the Entrepreneur Explosion) even if it was just repetition for me because repetition is not a bad thing.”

The other benefit of attend the small business events, Roddy said, is it gives business owners the chance to work together.

“One thing I realized right from the start is it is great networking,” she said. “I met people who were in the security business who could come over and look at the new building I acquired, I met people who were starting coffee services, and I serve coffee at some of the classes I offer at my shop, so I thought that if I could support them, I would.”

The explosion will include panel discussions from federal, state and regional business development authorities, and the keynote speaker Derek Greenfield, ASU’s director of educational equity and inclusion, will speak about the success of starting a business, Natchez Inc. Project Manager Chris Hinton said.

Other sessions will include topics such as customer service, small business financing and marketing a business through traditional and new media means.

During the lunch, Adams County and Natchez city officials will make a special announcement, Hinton said.

“This is definitely an announcement that somebody who is considering starting a business in the city or the county will want to hear,” he said.

The federal panel discussion will include the Mississippi director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the alternate federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority and the director of the U.S. Department of Commerce — Mississippi Export Assistance Center.

“We will have some pretty heavy-hitters in the government who will be here,” Hinton said.

The state panel is intended to help business owners tap into their creative side, Hinton said, with representation from the president of Innovate Mississippi, the community development director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, the regional e-BEAT coordinator for Mississippi State University and others.

United Mississippi Bank Branch Manager LaDine Washington will moderate the regional panel, which will feature successful small business owners from the area.

Alderwoman Sarah Smith will lead the discussion of customer service, while Delta Bank senior vice president Janice Bruce and Twin Oaks Owner Doug Charboneau will lead the small business financing session. Alcorn’s vice president for media relations, Clara Stamps, will lead the discussion of marketing.

“We are bringing this to our local economy because we want to support the growth of (small business) ideas and creativity,” Nichols said.

“It is amazing the ideas that are out there — we have heard some really unusual ideas out there that are probably going to make it, and we want them to know that this is a community that believes in support small businesses.”

Nichols said those who want to participate should pre-register so organizers will know how much food to order for lunch.

For more information, call 601-445-0288 or e-mail info@natchezinc.com.