Dr. Aliquippa Allen speaks to Rotarians on RBTC

Published 2:14 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2023

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Aliquippa Allen provides Rotarians with updates about the Rural Business Training Center over the last year.

Dr. Aliquippa Allen, along with Ashely Coplin, was the speaker for the January 11 Rotary Club meeting. Allen gave Rotarians an update on the Rural Business Training Center (RBTC) and what it has accomplished over the past year.

The RBTC is a 501 C3 innovation center that looks for aspiring entrepreneurs in the surrounding area, specifically the Black Belt Region. It is operated by local entrepreneurs and small business owners to recruit and develop other entrepreneurs to start and successfully run businesses in Marengo, Perry, Hale, and Greene counties.

“What we’re trying to do is find those folks who are interested in starting businesses and help them get to where they want to be,” said Allen. “Our current curriculum is that we can take you from your idea, guide you through all of the steps in the business process, and then you determine whether it’s a good idea when all is said and done.”

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The RBTC has three programmed cohorts a year. The cohorts are part of the CO. STARTERS Core that is a 10-week facilitator-led program that equips entrepreneurs of all kinds with the insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn ideas into action. Over 10 sessions, participants develop and fine tune their ideas. Participants leave the program with a deeper understanding of creating a sustainable venture.

Ten people make up a cohort as that is the target limit of the RBTC.

“We sit around the table and people get to know and build trust with each other and to share their ideas and their experiences so we can help each other to get to a better space,” said Allen.

Last year saw 15 graduates from the RBTC’s three cohorts, and five of those graduates have gone on to open their businesses.

Participants in the cohorts also receive an impact survey before and after the 10-week program. One of the things learned from these surveys is the average gross sales graduates had was $8,500 and a capital investment of $57,000.

“We’re able to be data driven and that is helpful in this program. We need to have that feedback so we know which direction we need to take and how to grow the program,” said Ashley Coplin.

The RBTC also offers seminars and workshops in accounting and bookkeeping, business structures, business strategy, financial management, human resources, leadership and management, and QuickBooks.

Over the last year, the RBTC has received $35,000 in financial support from several entities in the area such as the Alabama Power Foundation who gave a technology grant that allows the RBTC to do a hybrid cohort that gives participants the option of attending in person or online. They received marketing grants from the Daniel Foundation and the Black Belt Community Foundation, training grants from MCEDA and the Department of Commerce that helped with technology for training.

To learn more about the RBTC or to sign up for the CO.STARTERS 10-week program, visit https://www.rbtcinc.org/.