Final Report for CNE10-077

Stimulating Maryland Agricultural Entrepreneurship through Curbside Roundtables and Individual Planning

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $12,008.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland Extension
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Ginger Myers
University of Maryland Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

Farmers, who may be budding entrepreneurs, sometimes feel like their families and friends won’t support them in a new venture or that they didn’t know where to begin the planning process. While Maryland may be the richest state in the Union according to the U.S. Census, it now suffers from double-digit unemployment and a state budget that has gone from surpluses to deficits. These challenges, coupled with the rural income challenges Maryland share with the rest of the country; nurturing entrepreneurship is vital to both rural and community development in the Free State.

The “Stimulating Maryland Entrepreneurship through Curbside Roundtables and Individual Planning” project originally had three components: (1) the identification and training of entrepreneurial coaches from across the state, (2) conducting 3 statewide open roundtable discussion sessions to provide a platform for agricultural entrepreneurs to have an entrepreneurial coach listen, critique, and advise them on their business idea and provide follow-up resources, and (3) encouraging entrepreneurs to follow-up with business development professionals and use the resources on MREDC to develop a business plan and launch their new business.

While project components (1) and (3) were implemented as planned, component (2) was completely revised. Learning about the project through the “call” for potential coaches, several farm organizations that host annual events, asked if a coaching session could be included in their program. That format worked out very well since potential entrepreneurs may already be attending the event, the site had facilities and supporting facilities to conduct the one-on-one coaching, and the hosting meeting had a new and unique session to add to their roster of events.

Following this revised format, coaching was offered at the 2011 Future Harvest Conference and is schedule for a repeat session at their 2012 conference, and sessions were offered at the MD Farm Bureau Annual meeting targeting their young farmers group in particular, at the Small Farms Conference held at the University of Maryland’s Eastern Show campus and attracting a wide ethnicity audiences, and also at the regional Women in Ag Conference held in Dover, DE.
The original proposal called for training 10 coaches from within the rural community. Seventeen people applied for the training and to serve as coaches. This group included Ag service providers, Extension Educators, SBDC advisers, and farmers. The training was well conducted and the group has formed a “Coaching Network” to provide follow-up to potential clients beyond the life of this grant.

Through this project: 17 Ag Service Providers were trained as Entrepreneurial Coaches, 42 Entrepreneurs reached direct coaching with 12 of them contacting their coach for a follow-up appointment, 37 of those coached visited the MREDC website and 18 started or finished the business planning module on the site.

Project Objectives:

Entrepreneurial development efforts take time. It is a long-term economic development strategy. We targeted both short-term and long term outcomes. First, we focused on our capacity building measures such as the number of members recruited to become Entrepreneurial Coaches (target 10), then the number of entrepreneurs attending the roundtables (target 45), the number of attendees that follow-up with their coaches (target 20), the number of attendees that visit www.mredc.umd.edu for information (target 30), and then the number who complete a written business plan (10).

The program will also provide support to entrepreneurs who contact MREDC who were not able to attend a roundtable session, but who heard about the program and want assistance.

Introduction:

Traditional rural economic development approaches call for attracting development to rural areas where land is cheap and an affordable workforce is in plentiful supply. Neither of these conditions exists in Maryland where most of the rural areas set on the cusp of either Baltimore, Washington, Frederick, or Salisbury. Farmers and rural communities need to look for business opportunities that market both their products and their community assets to their urban neighbors. Growing new businesses means nurturing new rural entrepreneurs- especially farmers who add value to their raw commodities or direct market their products.
But entrepreneurs are made, not born. They can be developed to their full potential when provided training, a support network, and access to resources. They are by nature individualist who want to learn from other successful entrepreneurs and from their peers. They also need to have a sounding board for their ideas and dreams and a trustworthy “reality check” in their business planning process to help them avoid wasting time and resources throughout the development and launch of their enterprise. Therefore, developing the agricultural “entrepreneur coach”, someone who can listen and advise budding agricultural entrepreneurs, is an important component of any rural entrepreneurship program.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Shannon Dill
  • John Hickman

Research

Materials and methods:

Originally, This proposal had three components: (1) the identification and training of entrepreneurial coaches from across the state, (2) conducting 3 statewide open roundtable discussion sessions to provide a platform for agricultural entrepreneurs to have an entrepreneurial coach listen, critique, and advise them on their business idea and provide follow-up resources, and (3) encouraging entrepreneurs to follow-up with business development professionals and use the resources on MREDC to develop a business plan and launch their new business. We detailed in the summary the changes we made in conducting the actual coaching sessions.

Much of the work was conducted one-on-one- that including training the coaches and then coaching individual entrepreneurs. Surveys of both the coaches and the clients mirrored this comment as one of the facet of the program they found most valuable, “ listening and responding with problem solving advise while still guiding the entrepreneur through their own discovery process”.

Research results and discussion:

Through this project we designed and posted new entrepreneurial information and videos under the “Dream, Plan, Implement” section of the MREDC website. A Coaches training manual was developed, Training Purpose statement was established, and a Coaches Directory and resource section was added to the MREDC site.

The project has been promoting rural entrepreneurship and rural economic development as a valuable tool in developing a sustainable agricultural industry in Maryland. Information concerning the number and preparedness of home bakers and specialty food entrepreneurs was shared with Del. Mary Ann Love, in preparation for her “Cottage Industry” bill to allow the production of small scale baking in residential kitchens.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

The project produced an entrepreneurial Coaches Training Guide , and coaching tool kit now posted to MREDC, videos on both adult and youth entrepreneurship posted on MREDC, conducted post coaching surveys of both the coaches and entrepreneurs, and published article in newsletters and press releases about the importance of entrepreneurship in rural and community development.

Finally, the project and its outcomes were presented in a module on Entrepreneurship at the 2011
National Association of Extension Community Development Professional in Charleston, SC.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Through this project: 17 Ag Service Providers were trained as Entrepreneurial Coaches, 42 Entrepreneurs reached direct coaching with 12 of them contacting their coach for a follow-up appointment, 37 of those coached visited the MREDC website and 18 started or finished the business planning module on the site.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

Because the Coaches are still working, residual business development is still underway. This group is also an asset now to use in other business development projects.

Future Recommendations

1. Originally the proposal called for three statewide entrepreneurial roundtables for potential entrepreneurs to receive one-on-one coaching and follow-up materials. We discovered that the sessions draw the best attendance when coupled with another event. Entrepreneurs are busy folk and receiving the coaching at event where they may be networking or adding to their skill sets is a very good fit.
2. We had a great response to the call for training entrepreneurial coaches. There is definite an opportunity to do more train-the –trainer work with Ag service providers, community development specialist, Extension Educators, and funders in developing the skill sets needed to coach budding entrepreneurs.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.