DHR, Sorrell College of Business, and SBDC at Troy: A Triumphant Year of Nurturing Entrepreneurial Dreams

Heather Williams, a Dothan mother of eight, found inspiration and the skills through a joint SBDC-DHR program.

Heather Williams, a Dothan mother of eight, found inspiration and the skills through a joint SBDC-DHR program.

A trailblazing entrepreneurial program between the Alabama Department of Human Services, the Sorrell College of Business and the Small Business Development Center at Troy University has showcased the transformative potential of collaboration.

Developed by SBDC TROY Director Juliana Bolivar and tailored exclusively for DHR clients eligible for the SNAP program, this 20-week self-employment training served 42 and is the only training of its type to be offered in Alabama. 

TROY alumna Kari Bradley, a social services specialist at the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and Trinita Knight, a SNAP|A-RESET case manager at DHR, teamed with Juliana Bolivar, right, to develop an entrepreneurship program for SNAP benefit recipients. (TROY photo/JOEY MEREDITH)
TROY alumna Kari Bradley, a social services specialist at the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and Trinita Knight, a SNAP|A-RESET case manager at DHR, teamed with Juliana Bolivar, right, to develop an entrepreneurship program for SNAP benefit recipients. (TROY photo/JOEY MEREDITH)

The program encompassed various modules, diving deep into entrepreneurial essentials such as understanding work preferences, business basics, marketing strategies, and the intricacies of business finances. Beyond theoretical knowledge, students were empowered with practical tools to navigate the real-world challenges of the business realm.

“Entrepreneurship is more than just starting a business. It’s about transforming lives, building sustainable futures, and fostering economic wellness,” Bolivar said. “Through this comprehensive curriculum, we’ve equipped our students with a holistic understanding of the entrepreneurial landscape.”

Heather Williams of Dothan was a participant and is a mother of eight children. She found the online nature of the course highly beneficial in honing her business model that harmonized with her blogging interests.

“I was enrolled in the A-reset program when I was really going through a tough time. I was trying to find a way to participate and better myself for the sake of my children,” she said. “Because I have eight children, it was hard to get babysitters in order to attend class. Thankfully, a way was made for me to join in by Zoom. I tuned into the business classes for free! I even got a small paycheck for each class that I attended that helped with gas and other things.”

Her sister had been encouraging her to start blogging because she knew it was hard for Williams to go outside for employment. 

“Halfway through this course on entrepreneurship, I looked into what it would take to start my own blog. In one day, it was up and running at mylifewith8kids.com. I post articles there about my life and my kids with my unique worldview,” she said. 

Each article currently gets an average of 100 viewers. 

“My goal is to inspire and encourage,” she said. “After my reader base has gained more momentum, I would like to monetize my website. I could eventually even host products through my site.”

Similarly, George Simpson, also from Dothan, set the foundational stones for his envisioned appliance repair business.

“They explained everything very easily and in detail — all the steps I needed to take in order to start a business, which I want to be my legacy,” he said. “I say to other people looking to join the program: chase your dreams, do not let anyone discourage you and take the steps to find those good mentors.”

Indeed, as the partnership with DHR continues with another cohort in 2024, Bolivar said the program graduates are also introduced into a post-certificate phase, smoothly transitioning into the SBDC’s support framework.

“This program is a testament to our commitment to fostering entrepreneurship. We’re excited about the future and the continued positive impact we aim to make in the lives of our participants,” Bolivar said.

George Simmons of Dothan said his participating in a DHS-sponsored entrepreneurship course taught by the SBDC at TROY provided the way for him to create a legacy. (TROY photo/JOEY MEREDITH)
George Simpson of Dothan said his participating in a DHS-sponsored entrepreneurship course taught by the SBDC at TROY provided the way for him to create a legacy. (TROY photo/JOEY MEREDITH)

For Williams, the program served to spark additional business ideas.

“I gained lots of insight into all of the details that it takes to plan and run a successful business,” she said. “I have more ideas that I may someday turn into profitable businesses, such as my hobbies of woodworking and painting.”

Sorrell College of Business Dean Dr. Judson Edwards said those sorts of home-grown businesses were exactly what was needed.

“This collaboration signifies the power of combined expertise. Through DHR, SBDC, and our institution’s collective efforts, we’ve ignited entrepreneurial spirits and set many on the path to success,” he said.

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