America didn’t invent entrepreneurship - but we sure do love it here. Even President Obama is getting on the entrepreneurship bandwagon, announcing new programs to spur technology innovation that will lead to new companies being formed and hopefully, more jobs.
And he is singing my song - almost.
What continues to be missing from all the rhetoric about small business assistance, technology and innovation, is an emphasis on pragmatic community development efforts that support entrepreneurial ventures growing in unexpected places. As a few examples from our (www.culturalentrepreneur.org) adventures across New Mexico: In Zuni Pueblo a small partnership of cultural entrepreneurs has begun an export business of jewelry and art to Asia; in Albuquerque two Mexican ladies are building a tamale business that can’t stop growing; and in Deming, New Mexico, a couple is building and selling solar cookers that schools are using to heat breakfast for 200 kids - using zero electricity.
Small businesses in America spring from determination and necessity and these days we’ve got both in abundance, which means that small businesses are popping up all over the place. In crafting our Fast Forward New Mexico (FFNM) program, we considered these ventures and saw one gaping hole in the resources they need: digital literacy training for a Web 2.0 economy. Sure, everyone knows how to use Facebook to connect with long lost high school friends but how many of us know how to use social media to spur sales for our small business? And, how many entrepreneurs in Deming or Zuni Pueblo can access training that addresses how to cut costs using Web 2.0 technologies?
Our BTOP grant-funded program, FFNM, is unique in that our program’s advanced trainings focus solely on meeting the learning needs of small and new businesses in rural and marginalized communities. To do this well we recognized we would need to partner with organizations already working in these communities, and we would need to develop Small Business Success curriculum for a Web 2.0 world.
Over the next several weeks I’ll share how we developed community partnerships, curriculum, and outreach methods that have, so far, been successful in training entrepreneurs in far-flung communities to utilize social media and internet tools to build their business.
Photo on left: Azucena Molinar of La Comunidad Habla working with a training participant.