Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities conference shares success and resources

Conference purpose, impacts and resources are shared for all.

A statewide gathering of community movers, organizations and businesses focused on growing and sustaining entrepreneurial cities, towns and regions took place on Oct. 3-4 in Marshall, MI. This annual conference, known as Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC), was presented by Michigan State University Extension in partnership with Microenterprise Network of Michigan. This event attracted 92 attendees from across the state representing 26 Michigan counties and 38 cities as well as out of state and international participants.

The purpose of the conference was to:

  • Generate excitement about the role of entrepreneurs in growing resilient communities
  • Share innovative resources, information and tools
  • Strengthen regional capacity and support for entrepreneurs
  • Build clusters of communities that are passionate about entrepreneurship and prepared to act

To achieve its purpose, 21 different break-out sessions were offered along with two Keynote speakers. Hans Schuler, CEO and chairman from Schuler’s Restaurant and Pub opened the conference with his presentation on the ‘Cardinal Rules of Business.” Garvester Kelley, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Practices for the Association for Enterprise Opportunity concluded the conference by sharing best practices on “The Green Economy: Macro Opportunities for Microbusinesses.”

Other session topics focused on travel and tourism, culture and the arts, developing entrepreneurs, community best practices, fostering resiliency and youth entrepreneurship. To showcase the hosting community and local entrepreneurs, these breakout sessions were held in local businesses and organizations throughout Marshall. For those who could not attend, many of the speakers have shared their presentations here.

What impact did this conference have on the attendees? The following are the evaluation results:

  • 100 percent of participants increased knowledge of business concepts, tools and resources to build entrepreneurship in my community.
  • 97 percent of participants increased knowledge of youth entrepreneurship resources and programs.
  • 100 percent of participants increased knowledge of the value of tourism, arts and cultural development as useful economic development strategies.
  • 93 percent of participants indicated they plan to create, and expand community based entrepreneurial activities and initiatives presented at the conference within in the next year.
  • 98 percent of participants felt the conference was a good value.

In addition, participants had many comments about the conference including:

  • “Informative, motivating and encouraging!”
  • “Enjoyed networking and gaining many new, feasible, useable ideas I can take back to work and implement.”
  • “I like the idea of having it in many different venues; it gave me a chance to see the ‘flavor of the community.’ The cocktail party at the art gallery was a nice ending to day one. I like it being two half days so that the mind has time to digest the information gathered on day one before getting more on day two. It also allows us time to travel there that morning. Nicely done!”
  • “My first experience! Found it energizing!”

If you missed this year, don’t miss next year! In 2014, the CEC conference will be heading north to Tawas, MI in October for another exciting opportunity for community and business leaders to share successes, invest in ideas and empower entrepreneurs.

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