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M-State's Business and Entrepreneurial Service Center growing

M State Business and Entrepreneurial Services Director Beth Pridday stands in one of eight new offices that will be available for lease to new businesses. Seven offices have already been leased, Pridday said. (Jason Adkins/DL Newspapers)

The Business and Entrepreneurial Service Center at Minnesota State Community and Technical College campus in Detroit Lakes is off the ground and still growing a year after its launch.

The BES center was designed to be a hub for budding entrepreneurs in the lakes area.

BES Director Beth Pridday said that the first two components of the program -- community outreach and an entrepreneurship degree program -- started last year. The entrepreneurship program has about 30 students, Pridday said.

The other two components are ramping up this year.

M-State opened eight offices and one industrial space for entrepreneurs with new businesses, with the first tenants moving in this week.

"We have seven tenants moving in this week," Pridday said. "It's very exciting."

The offices have furniture, computer, desk and phone. There is a common conference room, fax services and the ability for a receptionist to answer calls that are personalized for each business.

Those spaces are to elevate an entrepreneur from a garage or basement business to one that is more out into the community.

She said that it's a safe way to test the waters, since office space is affordable and if it doesn't work out, you can just quietly close up shop.

"This is that sort of go-between," Pridday said of the office space.

She said that tenants also get mentoring opportunities from active or retired executives.

And the school hosts non-credited courses to teach various aspects of running a business, from using QuickBooks to marketing

An introduction to entrepreneurship class has been running for about two weeks.

"We did run that class that spring in Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids," Pridday said. "We've had great success."

One attendee at the spring class is one of the new tenants in the incubator space, while two others have businesses in Washington Square Mall.

Jay Norby purchased Raceway Hobby and Kelly Pratt opened a life coaching business called Second Star Life Design.

"Not only did we graduate some potential incubator tenants, we graduated some real business owners out in the community," Pridday said.

The classes aren't just for new business owners, she added.

"It reaffirmed what I was thinking and what I needed to do to get my business going," Norby said.

He said it taught him essential tasks, such as writing a business plan that is pertinent. Plus, he said he gained additional knowledge about taxes that he studied up on beforehand.

Norby said he would recommend the class to those who are building a business from scratch or existing businesses.

"They're not necessarily for entrepreneurs, but small business owners that want to sharpen their skills," Pridday said.

A good complement to the BES is the speaker series that brings successful entrepreneurs to campus to talk about how their businesses grew. The speaker series also is a great networking opportunity for entrepreneurs.

"It's been such an important contact for people for getting them in our classes," Pridday said.

The goal is to help all that come through the doors, either directly or referring entrepreneurs to the right sources.

One part of entrepreneurship that the BES doesn't help with directly is financing new businesses.

Pridday said that option was considered, but there are a lot of sources, from banks to angel investors that are willing to help.

She said that many entrepreneurs might think that they couldn't qualify for money, since they don't need much.

Pridday, though, said that some investors are willing to lend just a few thousand.

M-State administrators have been bullish on the BES, as President Ann Valentine pushed for it.

Provost Cris Valdez, along with Pridday and several other college employees, has attended entrepreneurship conferences to network with other colleges and businesses.

"This was a directive from the president to Cris," Pridday said of launching the BES.

With the recession, Pridday said entrepreneurship is at an all-time high.

"To be honest, it's one of those recession-proof things," she said.

Entrepreneurship comes in several flavors, Pridday said.

Older workers looking to go out on their own, displaced workers or those who just have the spark to launch a business.

"It's somebody who has the skills and knowledge, and wouldn't fit into the traditional 8-to-5 job," Pridday said of the third type of entrepreneur. "Entrepreneurship is their way of contributing and earning a living.

Pridday said that the BES still has plenty of room for expansion.

"We're growing the services that we need based on what our tenants need and also from the responses we receive from the community," Pridday said.

For more information on M-State-DL's Business and Entrepreneurial Service Center, contact Pridday at 846-3667 or e-mail her at