Small businesses are the lifeblood of any economy. In fact, according to the U.S Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, 99.5% of Maryland businesses are small businesses, meaning entrepreneurial spirit is critical to thriving communities. In short, because we serve largely local populations, community colleges are tailor-made to develop local talent to foster an ecosystem of entrepreneurship. This is yet one more arena in which community colleges shine.

A view of CCBC’s Maker’s space, The Collective, from the front entrance. 

At CCBC, we have been blessed to have enjoyed an eight-year partnership with the Philip E. & Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation to support a training platform for students, alumni, and community entrepreneurs in the Baltimore region. With Ratcliffe support, we have, until now, invested in local entrepreneurs through CCBC’s Center for Business Innovation’s training platform and a Business Plan competition that annually awards $60,000 in prize money to aspiring entrepreneurs. Now, with additional Ratcliffe support, we can also provide a venue to showcase and sell the wares of budding entrepreneurs on one of our campus sites. We call it The Collective!

The Collective is a store, a “Maker’s Space,” a place to shop, gather and inspire. It features products from more than 30 small businesses and a wide range of wares including coffee, tea, and candles. The Collective not only features products but it also offers more than 20 service based small businesses featured on its website. Goods and services are available in store and online. Services range from event planning to beauty to hair care.

I frequently write about the role that America’s community colleges play in meeting the nation’s workforce needs, from accountant to nurse to poet and plumber. I am proud to say that every one of us does that in spades! Unless we are located in Massachusetts or California, our students do not “go back” to Massachusetts or California when they complete their studies. Most of them return to their communities where they use their degree or certification to get a job, buy a house, pay taxes, send their children to local schools, and join the PTA. What better investment can our states or counties make than to support their community colleges in general and their budding entrepreneurs in particular.