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Bringing Worcester Business Back To Life

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

 

Does the Worcester Business Resource Alliance have what it takes to move the graph in the right direction?

As the Heart of the Commonwealth seeks to enter the 21st century of business and economic development, it can skip a beat from time to time. A prime example is the Worcester Business Resource Alliance, a five-year-old collaboration of non-profit and government entities that aims to help early-stage entrepreneurs launch and/or grow their business in the Worcester community.

About two years ago, efforts began to resuscitate the then-moribund Alliance. The parties administering the defibrillator were leaders of the Center for Women and Enterprise, Interise, Lutheran Social Services of New England, City of Worcester, Martin Luther King Jr. Business Empowerment Center, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, RCAP Solutions Financial Services,Service Corp of Retired Executives, and WPI Venture Forum (rebooted recently as The Venture Forum).

This year, the WBRA is co-chaired by a dynamic duo determined to jump-start Greater Worcester into a new era of vital entrepreneurialism. They are: Gina Betti, associate director of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in WPI’s School of Business and one of the leaders of The Venture Forum; and Amy Mosher, strategy and innovation leader for Workforce Central Career Center, which is operated by the city’s Division of Workforce Development in partnership with the state’s Department of Career Services.

Betti and Mosher appear to be strongly committed to spreading the word about Worcester’s abundant – and usually free - resources available to small businesses in the region. And those resources are not just for start-up businesses.

“In fact,” according to Mosher, “quite a few of the Alliance members do prefer that people have been in business for a little while so that [those members] can actually take a look at the real needs of the business today and moving forward.”

A good WORK ethic

The WBRA promotes itself as valuing “WORK,” which stands for “Wisdom, Opportunities, Resources and Knowledge.” After too many decades of living off corporate largesse and trust-fund grants, Worcester  needs to rekindle its entrepreneurial ethic and culture.

The all-volunteer WBRA may be a critical resource for re-establishing a healthy, sustainable WORK ethic in Worcester. The Alliance is a centralized network of business professionals, technical-assistance providers, lenders, and community-development organizations that collectively provides services to entrepreneurs, small-business owners and managers in Greater Worcester. The mission of the Alliance is “to stimulate commerce, community development and job growth by helping to build sustainable businesses through the widest range of professional tools and services available people who wish to pursue or are pursuing entrepreneurship.”

According to the WBRA, the vitality of Greater Worcester depends on successful small businesses. “We believe in developing synergy between Alliance members, clients, and community leaders,” the Alliance states. “We believe in providing equal opportunities and resources to anyone who is willing to work hard enough to make their business dreams a reality.”

Still coming up to speed

That said, the WBRA is still coming up to speed. Judging from the Alliance’s new website and Pinterest page, it has a way to go.

For example, the website’s Resources page lists a small handful of resources. And, only one of them is linked to another website: the Pinterest page. However, the Events page on the WBRA website is much more dynamic and informative.

One of the more intriguing events listed there is Interise’s StreetWise MBA program, which starts up this October. StreetWise MBA is an innovative seven-month program designed specifically for small-business owners. At the end of the program, participants can walk away with an individualized Strategic Growth Action Plan, which outlines the action steps required to achieve their business goals. Interise is now recruiting several more business owners to enroll in the program, which begins on October 8.

For small-business owners in need of financial assistance, RCAP Solutions Financial Services launched a small-business loan program in 2008. According to the WBRA site, RCAP has received $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin small-business lending.

And for those of you who are free next Tuesday, June 18 at 8:00 a.m., the Alliance will hold an Open House at the Martin Luther King Jr. Building Empowerment Center, which is located at 237 Chandler St. in Worcester. The event – which is listed on the WBRA site but is not shown on its Pinterest page - will provide an opportunity for all of the WBRA’s clients and customers to connect with the entire WBRA network under one roof at one time.

This sort of collaboration and networking is just what the doctor ordered to keep the Commonwealth’s heart beating strong. For now, all the WBRA needs to do is a better job of spreading the good word about its important work.

Steven Jones-D'Agostino is chief pilot of Best Rate of Climb: Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media and Radio Production.

 

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