Houston Community College: Growing Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Maya Durnovo
Member Spotlight

In 2009, the Northwest College of Houston Community College (HCC) proposed the development of a Center for Entrepreneurship in response to local business leaders who requested assistance in reviving an economically declining area of town. The leaders sought ways to create jobs and revitalize the local business community. Seven key strategies were developed to address this challenge:

  1. The creation of strategic partnerships with key economic drivers: management districts, chambers, Community Development Financial Institutions, Greater Houston Partnership, Houston Minority Supplier Development Council, Small Business Administration and local Small Business Development Centers;
  2. Sponsorship of an annual Business Plan Competition;
  3. Development of business workshops and business plan boot camps;
  4. Development of a vibrant website: BIZCONNECT
  5. Creation of Entrepreneurial Certificates;
  6. Partnership with continuing education to mirror business workforce courses; and
  7. Development of a dynamic advisory board composed of business leaders.

A $100,000 initial Innovation Grant enabled the staff members-—one full-time, one part-time—to develop the framework for the program. In the first year, the Business Plan Competition was developed, two entrepreneurial certificates were approved, the website went live, and workshops and seminars attracted over 1,500 participants.

The staff realized with some surprise and delight that they were onto something new and vitally important! The strategies developed by the Center for Entrepreneurship established an important foundation for the college to partner in a new and creative way with the business community. It also laid an innovative platform within the college community that has mushroomed into increased business instruction, community linkages, and funding opportunities we never dreamed possible.

The results included:

  1. A successful Annual Business Plan Competition that has grown and evolved into an extraordinary opportunity for potential business owners. Local banks and strategic partners fund the prize money, and competition contestants discover that owning a business is not for everyone. However, everyone gains vital information through an intensive training program with mentors who provide tangible experience and a realistic grasp of what it takes to run a successful business.
  2. Two hundred students are working on Entrepreneurial Certificates. Ten students completed at least one certificate.
  3. Since the Center for Entrepreneurship opened, 980 students have enrolled in two core entrepreneurship classes at HCC.
  4. Over 2,500 individuals enrolled in business seminars and workshops to learn more about operating a business. It is well understood that running a business demands a solid idea or product or service coupled with a fierce dedication, grueling hours of work, and a passionate commitment.
  5. HCC won the coveted Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative based on the college's strong business partnerships and outstanding business faculty. As of December 15, 2013, 99 percent, or 265, small businesses have graduated. Of these, 70 percent have grown in revenue and 40 percent have created new jobs.
  6. HCC partnered with the Young Entrepreneur Academy and is now offering entrepreneurial training to 24 underrepresented high school students who otherwise would never have such an opportunity.
  7. HCC created a systemwide department with a Chief Entrepreneurial Officer position in Feb 2013 to foster collegewide entrepreneurial initiatives.
  8. HCC won an MBDA grant from the Department of Commerce to host a Minority Business Development Agency. The agency opened on November 18, 2013, with a Director, two Business Advisors, and an office manager, and will serve 70 minority owned businesses in the first year.

HCC has proudly become a vital economic driver in the Houston community. Through MOUs with local organizations and collaborations designed to foster economic growth and vitality, the college is making a noteworthy contribution to the economy. And, a wonderful side note, college staff and faculty have become entrepreneurial and innovative. It's a win-win!

For more information, contact Maya Durnovo, Chief Entrepreneurial Officer, Houston Community College, at 713-718-8267, or Zachary Hodges, President, Northwest College, at 713-718-5720.