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Columbia Business Monthly

Part Two: Make 2018 your EntrepreYEAR!

Mar 06, 2018 02:20PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Hadia Ghandour
Lecturer in Global Business and Entrepreneurship At Columbia College

In last month’s edition of Columbia Business Monthly, the “how-tos” of starting your own business were addressed. These included getting a good understanding of your entrepreneurial potential, validating your idea, physically starting your business, and finding your market. Building on that information, this article addresses the resources available to help you locate a space to work, conduct your research and development, obtain mentorship, present your idea, and secure financing. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” is itself very dynamic with new resources constantly arising. While students will find that they can easily be mentored by their institutions, the resources discussed here are open to all.

Finding your space
Once you have outgrown the kitchen table, you may require additional space, networking opportunities, and mentorship prospects. There are several co-working spaces in town to choose from. The Richland County Library (RCL) has a stunning, fully equipped modern space that is free to county residents. SOCO is a well-established co-working space in the Vista and on Bull Street. The USC/Columbia Technology Incubator is not just for students and has a Coworking Community and a Business Incubator. Columbia College has a co-working space at Columbia College’s McNair Institute, and is open to recent alumnae. Blythewood has its own co-working space run in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce.

Research and Development
Research and development takes many forms. USC has a collection of resources that anyone can access at For more creative types, there are fantastic maker-spaces, ranging from a music studio to painting, woodworking, or sewing spaces that can be found in several RCL locations. There is also a very young technology-based maker-space based out of Seven Oaks called Columbia Maker Space:

Guidance and mentorship
1 Million Cups is a supportive environment to share and learn from others every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the RCL main branch. Everyone involved in entrepreneurship in Columbia eventually stops by 1 Million Cups. Therefore, it is a great place to seek advice and network. SCORE is another national organization, with local members that are experienced business leaders who volunteer to mentor young companies for free. In addition, the Business Development Center at Benedict College offers assistance to minority-owned businesses.

Pitching Competitions for $$
Whether you are given 1, 3, or 20 minutes, you need to perfect how to convey your business objective, a process called pitching. Pitching needs to be done with clarity and enthusiasm even if it is the 51st time repeating what your company does – that 51st person might be your dream funder! Look for pitching events – there is often prize money for the winning pitch, which can be useful to seed your business. The SC Micro Business Pitch Competition happens in June and offers $250 to $3000 to the winners. The Proving Ground is USC’s signature entrepreneurial competition and is open to recent alumni with a prize up to $52,000. Your local Toastmasters chapter is a good place to practice pitching.

There are several stages in which a company may require financing. The first tends to be a catch-22. A company with no record will need to be bootstrapped, self-funded, or funded by friends and family. If you are good at pitching, then pitch competitions may be an option. Incubators, such as the USC Technology Incubator, may take some equity in return for you entering their accelerator program. 

Once a company has a track record, then a proper business plan can be used to apply for SBA loans.

A company that has compelling intellectual property and potential to scale may be able to swap some of its equity for funding from Angel investors – shark tank style. VentureSouth is South Carolina’s leading Angel investing group.

A company with innovative technology could get a grant from various institutions including South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA). SCRA awards matching funds to companies that have been awarded federal SBIR or Small Business Tech Transfer (STTR) Phase I grants. The matching funds help the companies further the research, conduct market research, and/or purchase required equipment. The grants are matched one-to-one with the agency award amount, up to $50,000.

As you review this list of what is available, begin developing your plan for success. Learn from local experts and start your business on a grounded footing. Take advantage of the entrepreneurial resources available throughout the midlands and beyond. Will 2018 be your entrepreYEAR? Say YES and get started!

Hadia Ghandour is a Lecturer in Global Business and Entrepreneurship at Columbia College and is an active Angel Investor. She received her MBA from USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.