Ready, set … launch: Dover entrepreneurial program graduates first class

Members of the Restoring Central Dover Launcher Entrepreneurship program attend one of the classes that helps put them on track to eventually start their own business. Submitted photo

DOVER — There are 16 prospective entrepreneurs who are hoping Dover means business when they set out to begin their careers and open the doors to new businesses in the city of Dover.

The hopeful future business owners took a big leap towards that goal as they participated in the inaugural Restoring Central Dover Launcher Entrepreneurship program, a business partnership with M&T Bank and the West End Neighborhood House.

The class of 16 graduated at the Solid Rock Community Outreach Center at 109 N. West Street on Monday night as members of the first class of the entrepreneurship program.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen delivered the keynote speech to the graduates, who participated in an intensive 12-week course that touched on the many aspects of starting up a business.

Will Grimes, the coordinator for NCALL’s Restoring Central Dover initiative, said the entrepreneurial program aligns perfectly with his organization’s objectives.

“This program is great in that it provides technical assistance, business training and access to financial capital for entrepreneurs to launch their small business and be provided with the tools and support needed to be successful,” Mr. Grimes said.

The business program was created by the Wilmington-based West End Neighborhood House and made possible in Dover through a grant provided by M&T Bank.

In early 2017, Barclays Bank provided seed funding to the West End Neighborhood House to start a place-based, entrepreneurship training program called “Launcher.”

Built on a nationally replicated model created by the Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) out of St. Paul, Minnesota, the program partners with community-based organizations to recruit aspiring entrepreneurs.

It also identifies and trains local business owners in each community to deliver the curriculum to the aspiring businesspersons.

Since NDC started in 1993, more than 550 of its entrepreneurs are still in business. Launcher has already created 160 jobs and helped start or expand 60 businesses.

According to Mike McCafferty, the director of West End’s Launcher Entrepreneurship program, “the ‘Launcher’ program is unique because local business owners are trained to teach students. Therefore, students have the opportunity to learn from their peers.”

Students in Dover’s inaugural Launcher Entrepreneurship class aspire to open businesses in a variety of different industries, including food service (restaurants, bakeries and catering), house cleaning, event planning, auto repair, retail stores, music production and recording and medical counseling.

“The 12-week course assists entrepreneurs with everything from choosing a business name and creating a logo, to management skills and bookkeeping,” Mr. McCafferty said. “By the end of the course, the goal is for students to have their business plan together.”

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