Gilbert program gives entrepreneurs leg up - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Gilbert program gives entrepreneurs leg up

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Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 2:38 pm | Updated: 1:52 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

An educational program for small-business owners in Gilbert has proven so popular, classes are consistently overbooked, organizers say.

Front Runner, a 10-week course offered twice a year in September and January by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Gilbert, is a course for people with at least two years of experience operating a business.

“It basically walks you through setting up a company from A to Z — putting together a marketing plan, a business plan, putting together your P&Ls (profits and losses) and so forth,” said Constance Lemer, a program graduate and vice president of Employee Benefit Exchange Corp., a health care benefits and human resources management firm.

Registration has already begun for the upcoming class, which runs from Sept. 16 to Nov. 18 at Gilbert Town Hall.

The program teaches participants a range of skill and strategies to get a leg up on their competition. Among other things, students learn how to utilize market research and analysis, as well as financial tools like accounting software. Front Runner uses a range of instruction techniques, including speakers from various industries and one-on-one coaching.

This year’s class will emphasize social media marketing and survival tips during the recession.

Lemer said one of the most valuable aspects of the program was the instruction she received on using the Internet.

“Now we have a company Facebook, we have a Twitter (and) we have enhanced our Web site,” she said.

Kathy Langdon, the chamber’s president and CEO, said social media is a highly popular topic for businesses.

“It shows your relationships with other people and by doing that, I think it gives your company credibility,” she said.

“It’s just a new way of marketing yourself and keeping in contact with your customers.”

Langdon said the program, which accommodates 15 to 20 people, is consistently overbooked.

The program uses the FastTrac GrowthVenture Program designed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. According to the Missouri-based nonprofit group’s Web site, about 300,000 participants have been through the entrepreneur learning programs.

Langdon said this year’s course is the third in a series of four. It normally costs participants about $1,500 to take the program, but it’s only $150 through the town, thanks to a grant it received. The cost pays for course materials.

For more information, call (480) 503-6762, or go to www.gilbertft.com.

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