Small business owner and Anne Arundel Community College student Heidi Pena knew a lot about interior design, but she wasn’t sure how to bridge the gap between her passion and a viable business. AACC offers a degree in Entrepreneurship, but the Entrepreneurial Studies Institute has more than just classes. Students like Pena have access to scholarships, mentors and resources.
Through ESI and the Ratcliffe Foundation Entrepreneurs Scholarship, Pena is turning her dream of owning an interior design business into a reality.
“The scholarship is a tremendous opportunity that offers a network of professionals who are committed to seeing me and my business succeed,” said Pena, founder of Casa Pena Designs. “It also gives me the financial freedom to continue to take courses in my field of interest while I build my company.”
The Ratcliffe Scholarship as well as the Business Pitch Competition (see the fall 2018 edition of Wingspan) and the Big Idea Competition are just a few opportunities for students to gain funds to support their education and businesses.
“The Ratcliffe Scholarship is important because it provides students a means to extend their knowledge and gain skills,” said Professor Carlene Cassidy, ESI department chair who will leave AACC to become CEO of the Ratcliffe Foundation in January 2020. “So many students are also working, so by getting the scholarship, they are able to work fewer hours or, in some cases, save up a little money to actually start their businesses.”
The Ratcliffe Foundation Entrepreneurs Scholarship provides up to $12,000 for tuition and fees, books and supplies as well as a practical learning opportunity. Recipients are connected to a network of other business owners and mentors.
“I already have had professional experience from the industry, but I haven't had experience running a business” said Brett Ginski, a student who plans to start a cybersecurity subcontracting business. “With this scholarship, I am hoping to improve my business experience through the use of courses, coaching and mentoring.”
Mentors are another important component of ESI. Faculty and other supporters help students prepare scholarship applications, make connections in the community and think critically about the future of their business.
Stephanie Goldenberg, ESI assistant professor and mentor, pushes her students to practice their business skills in hands-on settings. Last spring, her class “Entrepreneurship: Sales and Marketing for Small Business” organized HawkTrade, an exhibition of student-run businesses.
You don’t have to be a scholarship recipient or business student to take advantage of the ESI resources! Any AACC student is welcome in the Hatchery. For the last 10 years, the Hatchery has helped students launch their businesses. The space is equipped with workstations, business books, software and even specialized equipment like a button maker, sewing machine and 3-D printer. However, the best resource in the Hatchery might be the other students.
“I liked the people who were … trying to help everybody and get people connected to someone who could help them with their business,” said Royal Snyder, a Ratcliffe Scholar who plans to start a web design company. “They were very welcoming, and I wanted to be part of that culture.”