Graduates of the Community Investment Collaborative received congratulations from Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng on Saturday.
The first 15 graduates of CIC, a new microenterprise development program to support underserved entrepreneurs, were awarded diplomas in a ceremony at CitySpace in Charlottesville.
“CIC is a program that believes in teaching someone how to fish instead of giving them a fish,” said Toan Nguyen, CIC board chairman and co-founder of C'ville Coffee. “It provides a pathway for anyone, whether they have good credit or not, whether they can receive a traditional loan from a bank or not, to start or expand their business.”
In his remarks, Cheng stressed the important role entrepreneurship plays in the state’s economy.
“It’s really the biggest contributor to jobs and job growth in Virginia and across America,” he said. “It represents about 65 to 75 percent of all new jobs that are created in our great commonwealth.”
While always important, Cheng said job creation through entrepreneurship is especially critical now.
“Our state, our country and really, the world — we’re all in an economic slump,” he said. “We need everybody in the community to be energized and mobilized to assist in economic recovery. We need everyone thinking about new ways to innovate.”
When visiting businesses of various types and sizes across the state, Cheng said he hears about common struggles.
“It’s really hard to start a business these days,” he said. “Access to capital, it’s really hard to get a loan to start a business. How do you even write a business plan to get that loan? And where do you go for advice?”
Cheng touted the new program as an important solution and community resource.
“Everyone deserves a chance,” he said. “If you have an idea, if you have a concept, sometimes you just need that extra spark to turn that idea into a success.”
Cheng also applauded the graduates for their work.
“There are many great ideas and business concepts out there,” he said. “It means nothing unless someone takes an action. You have to seize the day. You have to make a commitment, an investment and take the risk.”
Throughout an intensive 14-week course, the graduates built business plans and received mentoring from community business leaders.
“They came to CIC with dreams,” Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones said. “They’ve received the kind of training and exposure needed to help make those dreams come true. They put in a ton of time and effort to hone their craft and put themselves in the best position possible to get their ideas off the ground or to the next level.”
Program participants created plans for a variety of businesses, including a roller skating rink, a hair salon and catering service.
In addition to business training, CIC offers opportunities for micro-financing and community networking.
CIC is a collaborative of local businesses, nonprofits and the city of Charlottesville.
“It’s been deeply inspirational to witness the whole community coming together,” Nguyen said.
For more information on CIC, visit www.cicville.org.