Columbia has some amazing resources available to entrepreneurs.
Have you been the main branch of the Richland County Library lately? If not, you need to go! To truly understand what all they offer, you may want to schedule a tour.
The second-floor Studios focus on creative entrepreneurship, writing, media, making, and studio arts. They consist of a Makerspace, Fiber Arts Studio, Production Stage, Post-Production Lab, Art Studio, Woodworking Studio, and a Theater. On the third-floor, you will find the state-of-the-art Business, Careers and Research Center with career coaches and highly-trained librarians to help guide you.
While the library has many fantastic programs and workshops, my favorite is their Entrepreneur-in-Residence program. The current EiR is Lasenta Lewis-Ellis, the President and CEO of LLE Construction Group, LLC.
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Lewis-Ellis while participating on the panel for the Forum Discussion: "Financing Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurial Support," an entrepreneurial panel focusing on introducing alternative workspaces for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the community. She has future forum discussions scheduled and you can schedule a free 30-minute business coaching session with her.
The panel last week consisted of two of my favorite space owners: Greg Hilton, co-founder of SOCO, and Tamika Washington, the owner of The Converspace, plus the directors of the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator and the Benedict College Business Development Centers. These are places I have heard about but knew very little about.
USC/Columbia Technology Incubator
Caroline Crowder, program director for the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, summed it up best for me when she stated that if you have something that is intellectual property and patentable, you need to visit the incubator. They have a large variety of resources and programs available.
According to their website, they are looking for businesses who meet the following criteria:
- Have an innovative product or service that is beyond the “idea” phase.
- Shows the potential to bring a product or service to market and generate sales within six months of joining the program.
- Shows the potential to quickly create new, high wage, high impact jobs.
- Has principal business operations in Richland or Lexington Counties of South Carolina.
If this sounds like you and your business, I highly suggest you make an appointment to learn more.
Benedict College Business Development Center
Finally, the Benedict College Business Development Center was the program I knew the least about prior to last week. Ms. Lewis-Ellis is a graduate of the center. They have office space rentals and support, business skills training, technical support, and mentoring.
If you are planning a new business or in the early stages, I highly suggest you check out some of these resources or any of the agencies posted on this list curated by the City of Columbia.