Summit County economic director teaches course on entrepreneurship
March 2, 2019
Jeff Jones, Summit County's economic development director, is a fan of homegrown businesses. He said they help create stable jobs over time, and the businesses that emerge tend to better reflect and serve the community.
So, when he has a chance to help people in Summit County start their own businesses, he takes it.
Jones recently launched the county's third cohort of the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program. Over the span of 16 weeks, he teaches program participants how to evaluate an idea for a business, put the idea into action, build a brand and manage funds. The course is free for residents of Summit County, and 10 individuals are able to sign up for each cohort.
The program was previously taught in Coalville and Snyderville Basin. The current cohort, which launched on Feb. 28, is taking place in Kamas. Classes are scheduled to take place every Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Jones taught the first entrepreneurship program in the county in 2015, a few months after stepping into his role. He learned about the course while working in Idaho, and he taught a few cohorts in the bordering state. The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative created the curriculum for the program, and it is based off the book "Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur."
Jones said the program looks at entrepreneurship with a unique lens. The book that inspired the course is about an entrepreneur who worked in the cotton fields in the 1950s. Jones said the program has motivational content with real-life stories. The curriculum includes videos of entrepreneurs talking about their struggles.
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John Senew, who completed the entrepreneurship program a few years ago, said the class was inspiring because of its message. One of his main takeaways was the motivation to start two businesses. One is a sports media company called The FanCompete and the other is a sports beverage business.
"It's really real-world, and it can be helpful to people who want to start small businesses to large ones," he said. "I thought it was very helpful and very encouraging all the way around."
Jones said he hopes people walk away from the course understanding that anyone can be an entrepreneur.
The people who previously went through the course were on different paths, but Jones said most of them seemed to gain skills from it. Some had an idea and wanted to know what their next steps were. Others already owned small businesses and wanted to expand.
The majority of the people who went through the program are still involved in growing their businesses or nonprofits.
"It is gratifying when I see them," he said.
Senew said he also learned valuable skills that helped him get his businesses started.
Jones said he believes it is important for the county to invest in small businesses because they help create a healthy economy. The county covers the cost of participation, which is $130 a person.
He said economic development directors often spend a lot of their time recruiting big companies to move to their towns, but he worries that is not the best way to add jobs.
"If a company does decide to relocate, you have to deal with a lot of the impacts of where do these people live, do you have room in the schools for their children? There are a lot of infrastructure things that have to be considered," he said. "Conversely, if you are working with an existing population who is growing the business organically, they are already here."
He said the residents already understand the local customs and culture of a town and have an established network. Plus, locals tend to understand what the unique barriers are and can better work around them.
"I think growing your own is smart," he said.
Those interested in learning more about the course or signing up should contact Jeff Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org. As of Friday morning, there are still two open spots for the program.