On July 30-31, Bryan K. Stephens, Hampton Roads Chamber President & CEO, and Jim Carroll, Vice President for Small Business for the Chamber and Executive Director of the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads (SBDC), were joined by Mark Johnson, Community Development Manager for SunTrust Bank, and Zack Miller, Managing Director of HATCH, for a two-day visit to the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce in Tennessee to evaluate “Propel,” a small business focused mentor-protégé program.
The Propel program starts with an initial seven-week, in-depth training program introducing participants to personnel, marketing and financial analysis information. Following this program, participants are paired with mentors, all successful Chamber members, who then help them complete a two to three-year program consisting of “Street MBA,” a curriculum of advanced business classes coupled with one-on-one counseling, coaching and mentoring.
Doug Minter, Creator and Director of the program, says this program has helped small business owners create 90 new net jobs and more than $30 million in direct economic impact to the Knoxville region since 2010.
Jim Carroll said, “Surprisingly, both the Hampton Roads and Knoxville regions have many similarities; strong federal spending by the DoD in Hampton Roads and the DoE in Knoxville; both contain world-class universities and a rising entrepreneurial class.” Carroll added, “This program is well thought out and structured to help small business owners obtain the maximum benefit for their businesses.”
Bryan K. Stephens emphasized it is the Chamber’s role to ensure the conditions are set and the resources are available in Hampton Roads to allow small businesses to succeed and grow. Therefore, the Chamber, along with the SBDC, is formulating a new small business strategy to help the region’s business owners prosper as the economy goes through some upcoming seismic shifts with the anticipated reduction in defense spending. “Propel” may be one of the tools employed to achieve this goal.