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Building up Business

The year 2020 was certainly difficult, and also revealed often-neglected segments of American society, particularly women entrepreneurs.

To help, Bridgewater State University has secured grant money through the state’s Regional Pilot Project Grant Program, which was established to support recovery solutions based on the specific economic needs of individual regions of the commonwealth.

Dr. Jeanean Davis-Street, dean of the Louis M. Ricciardi College of Business, successfully applied for a $110,000 grant to develop a “Bear’s Den” business plan competition to support women, minoritized communities and persons for whom English is a second language, to build their own small businesses.

“2020 was one of the worst years in a generational period, but we can build back better,” Davis-Street said. “If we can build from the COVID ashes and put in place proper procedures, infrastructures and resources, and can provide the necessary support, it could be a gamechanger for the region.”

The BSU Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) has partnered with the Metro South Chamber of Commerce, Center for Women and Enterprise, and SCORE of Southeastern Massachusetts to run the competition.

Together the organizations reviewed 50 applicants and narrowed it down to 20 contestants.

Those who are ultimately selected will receive resources to build business models and establish or re-establish businesses in the Brockton and Bridgewater area.

“This area of Massachusetts has long been economically overlooked,” Davis-Street said. “We realize that the largest growth in any economy comes from small businesses, and we are hoping this will help incentivize and support those individuals who want to start their own small business.”

Winners will be awarded three prizes: a five-week course run by the CFE, mentorship from retired executives, and technology training, which will include BSU faculty-led webinars.

“Whatever their skill set, talent, whatever they want to bring to a business setting, we’ll help them determine if there is a market for that, and how to develop and expand in that market,” Davis-Street said.

Beyond the competition, Davis-Street hopes to make the local community aware that BSU is available and can offer support in the area of entrepreneurship and small business resources.

“We want to be a central hub by bringing state, local and federal resources, as well as business entrepreneurship, to one place to see how we can revitalize this whole region,” she said.

Using the grant money to assist populations who have been historically marginalized in the business world is one way to do this, Davis-Street added.

“If we stop doing things the way we always have but focus on those with creative ideas who have never been asked, then we can make changes,” she said.

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