by PAULETTE PARKER
Entering the door of the Entrepreneurship Center’s Open House, the room was buzzing with the mixing and mingling of business owners, aspiring and established, trading tips and sharing stories.
Business cards exchanged hands while attendees sampled apple cider and an array of sweets provided by Coffee House Creamery in Ann Arbor, owned by Natalie Park, one of the four spotlighted entrepreneurs.
“She built a coffeehouse from the ground up,” said Kristin Gapske, Entrepreneurship Center manager.
“It starts with an idea; that’s all it takes,” said Aaron Richison, 29, of Ann Arbor, another spotlighted entrepreneur.
Richison is a Washtenaw Community College alumnus who graduated in 2008 with a degree in Business Administration. He also earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Cleary University in Ann Arbor.
Now, Richison is the owner of Rich Decisions Professional Detailing, a mobile detailing service that goes to the doors of customers in Washtenaw County and the surrounding areas.
“I did a business plan for my senior project and ended up winning the Entrepreneurship Award,” Richison said. “They cut me a check to start my own business, and I’ve been building it up over four years,” he said, beaming with passion for his craft.
Those in attendance benefited from networking opportunities and were entered for a chance to win a $125 gift certificate, courtesy of Rich Decisions Professional Detailing.
“We are really gearing up for our grand opening on March 10, 2015,” said Gapske. “Until then, we are open and offering services such as co-working spaces, mentoring, computers and a printer is available, as well as a comfortable space for entrepreneurs to gather and network.”
Located in room 120 of the Plant Operations building, the Entrepreneurship Center has been a collaboration of efforts from within WCC and several resources out in the local community.
The local chapter of the Small Business Development Center has an office right across the hallway from the center. There are also members from SCORE, a nonprofit mentoring program, and a Market Research Librarian that visit the center twice a month.
“If you don’t know where to look, it could take years just to do some research,” Gapske said. “We help you with finding the information you need, as well as provide you with some information you may not have thought to research.”
Some have already begun utilizing the center’s resources, staff and cozy co-working space to enhance their businesses.
“I definitely developed a support system I did not have before and a guiding light for my journey,” said 29-year-old retail management major, Alana Connolly of Ypsilanti, who owns the Ann Arbor Sunless airbrush tanning.
The center is also valuable to those who are in the early stages of a business idea. Work-study student and criminal justice major, Marcus Bradford, 24, of Ypsilanti, is looking to cater to a market he finds lacking.
“I want to open a vegetarian restaurant called Soulful Vegetarian,” Bradford said. “I just became a vegetarian, and there’s not a lot of options. I want to provide that.” Bradford takes advantage of the reading material at the center, as well as receiving opportunities by email.
“We are here to serve the campus community, but also the community as a whole,” said Kimberly Hurns, interim dean of business and computer technologies.
The ultimate goal of the Entrepreneurship Center?
“To create entrepreneurship energy,” Hurns said.
Additional reporting by Lori Tackett