Chamber events: free business development programs offered

The chamber partners with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center to offer two educational programs this month that help individuals launch a business idea or learn new skills and strategies. The SBDC is an accredited member of the Small Business Development Center Network of America – the most comprehensive small business assistance program in the United States with a proven track record of over 40 years of service.

One program is designed for aspiring minority-owned entrepreneurs who want to start their own business, and the other is for minority-owned businesses looking to take their business to the next level.

While the pandemic has had an obvious impact on the creation of new businesses, there has been an increase in the number of new business registrations. From January 2019 to November 2021, 15% of new businesses identified as female-owned and 13% were minority-owned — two steady increases over the past few years, according to Many of the new businesses in these categories are in transportation and warehousing, as well as retail, professional and technical services, and real estate.

Did you dream of starting your own business? The time has come.

The Minority Startup Program, which runs Wednesdays on Zoom from 5:30-7 p.m., will help educate individuals on the basics of turning a concept, idea, or passion into a real business. The program will take place over four class sessions, starting on May 18 and continuing until June 8.

“The state sees a lot of people who want to start their own business. The Minority Startup Program will help people walk through their concept and understand how they can turn it into a business,” said Joe Ercolano, Connecticut State Director SBDC.

To incentivize participants to attend all four courses, the chamber will cover $100 in tuition for the program, reimbursement for the Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of State up to $120, and additional start-up costs up to $200. Funding comes in part from a cooperative agreement with the US Small Business Administration, the state Department of Economic and Community Development, the University of Connecticut, and funding from the CARES Act.

The Minority Business Growth Program is a more intensive eight-session virtual course for existing minority-owned businesses. The program will provide technical knowledge, facilitate discussion with other business owners, and cover several key topics, such as marketing, operations, and financing for growth.

“This program is all about growth,” Ercolano said. “Established minority-owned businesses will learn how to build capacity while finding new business, new customers, and new opportunities, while gaining a better understanding of finances.”

This program runs every Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., from May 24 to June 15. The program is worth $1,500 and registration is free.

If you want to learn more about the Minority Startup Program, visit To enroll in the Minority Business Growth Program, visit Do not hesitate to contact the chamber at 203-757-0701 if you have any questions or need advice on registering.

Lynn Ward is President and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber. Contact her at 203-757-0701 ext. 310 or

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