PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. – The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) plans to build a robust online, ‘how-to’ map for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Southern Maryland thanks to a recent $7,300 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. When complete, the Entrepreneurship Eco-System Map will provide an interactive, online catalog and guide for small businesses and entrepreneurs to share success stories and lessons learned; locate financial, marketing and conceptual support; and link to state and federal guidelines and grants.
“Dominion is a great corporate neighbor,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy. “As a Fortune 500 company, they understand what is involved with growing and maintaining a successful and competitive company. They also understand the need for new ideas and fresh perspectives to enter the economy. Dominion’s gift will help us continue our commitment to help small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed by building networks, encouraging ingenuity and fostering a positive economic and training climate in Southern Maryland.”
“This grant strengthens our ongoing partnership with CSM and our shared goal of preparing Southern Maryland students for successful careers,” said Dominion Energy’s External Affairs Manager George Anas.
This grant is timely, confirmed CSM Assistant Professor in Science and Engineering Division and Endowed Professor for Innovation John Short, who will oversee execution of the funding. The Maryland Department of Commerce last year funded CSM to develop a web-based search engine – Southern Maryland Innovates – in conjunction with local and state economic development directors and non-profit economic development groups. Short said that creating the Southern Maryland Innovates web page was the first step toward the entrepreneurship resource map.
“Dominion’s grant will help us take our efforts to the next level,” Short said.
According to CSM Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute Director Thomas Luginbill, there is an abundance of resources that exist to support small businesses in Southern Maryland. This mapping guide will streamline searches and help viewers see how the resources are connected.
“The abundance of information can create ‘analysis paralysis,” Luginbill shared. “When a person is starting a new business, they are usually overwhelmed with start-up issues. When you get hundreds of hits while searching for information online – it’s just too much to sort out, compare and understand.”
There has been no shortage of inquiries lately from people looking into starting their own business, according to Calvert County Department of Economic Development Director Kelly Robertson-Slagle. Dominion’s largest footprint in Maryland is the Cove Point LNG Plant located along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County.
“With one government shutdown still in the rearview mirror and the threat of another around the bend, the national conversation has included discussions about how and when might be the right time to start a business,” Slagle said. “What Dominion’s grant is helping our partners at the College of Southern Maryland do is provide a comprehensive network of online resources for anyone to access and jump start the formation of their invention, idea or company. The Entrepreneur Eco-System map is a great idea and we can’t wait to partner with CSM to see it through.”
Short said the next step will be for CSM to identify the content managers and contributors – such as Slagle and corresponding economic development directors in Charles and St. Mary’s counties, as well as Chambers of Commerce, The Patuxent Partnership, the Southern Maryland Innovation and Tech (SMIT) Initiative and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), to name a few.
“The idea is to make entrepreneurs and small business owners stronger,” Short said. “It is our vision to allow stakeholders to have a visual reference to everything, including what they may not have even thought about – such as training and business plan support,” Short added.
“Basically, we said we have the business canvas, paint and brushes,” Luginbill added in metaphoric terms. “And Dominion came along and said let’s start painting.”