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Bank of America Grant Invigorates Bengal Entrepreneurship Program

SBDC Hires Program Coordinator with Grant

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Buffalo State University is once again offering its Bengal Entrepreneurship Program (formerly the Student INC.ubator) for budding entrepreneurs on campus.

A two-year $57,000 grant from Bank of America allowed the SBDC to hire a program coordinator to oversee the program and help students pay for travel expenses to a statewide competition.

Thanks to the grant, the entrepreneurship program is up and running, now in Buckham Hall A107, after almost two years of in-person restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides a unique opportunity for students to meet weekly and work on business proposals to submit to the annual New York State Business Plan Competition. The intercollegiate entrepreneurship competition, sponsored by Upstate Capital, features regional competitions in early April and semifinals and finals later in the month.

“We are so thankful to Bank of America for recognizing the important role the entrepreneurship program plays in the development of small businesses in the region,” said Susan McCartney, director of the SBDC.

Ted Janicki, president of Bank of America Buffalo, added, “Bank of America recognizes that driving economic growth and opportunity for our local communities begins with encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs. Buffalo State University’s Bengal Entrepreneurship Program is a valuable resource for students seeking hands-on business experience and leadership training. We look forward to helping this year’s students compete as well as reach their academic and professional goals.”

In December, the SBDC hired Mia Cretacci, a computer information systems major, to handle the day-to-day operations of the entrepreneurship program on a part-time basis. She will assist Olivia Harbol, ’18, an SBDC business adviser and Buffalo State graduate student who started working in the SBDC as an intern in 2017. Harbol coordinated last year’s program and helped students refine their competition presentations.

“We’ve had students pitch everything from interior design services based on psychology to unique restaurants featuring the wildest desserts imaginable,” Harbol said.

An informational meeting open to all Buffalo State students was held on Thursday, February 9. The Bengal Entrepreneurship Program will host weekly meetings on Tuesdays from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in Buckham Hall A107 starting on February 14 to teach students about business planning and allow them to prepare their eight-minute pitch presentations for the regional round competition.

Chad Williams, ’20, who won first place in the Consumer Goods and Services sector at the state competition in spring 2020, attended the February 9 meeting to discuss how he started his clothing business, dooProcess. The clothing espouses social justice through T-shirts and hoodies, and his designs have honored victims of police brutality such as Trayvon Martin and George Floyd.

“The SBDC played a very crucial part in how I performed in the 2020 New York Business Plan Competition,” Williams said. “Even after the competition, the support was tremendous. Karina Loera of the SBDC introduced me to John Donner, who helped me form dooProcess into an LLC at no charge.”

In 2021, Williams was named a Forbes Next 1000 recipient, and his business has been featured in print and broadcast platforms, including on rap mogul Master P’s Review ChannelWKBW-TV Channel 7, and ABC 7 NY.

McCartney and Harbol expect to increase interest from students wanting to launch their own businesses.

“Starting small businesses is a trend we’re seeing throughout the country,” McCartney said.

Although many students create small businesses as a side hustle, McCartney said, they contribute greatly to the New York economy.

“We show them how to set up accounting, insurance, and the right legal structure,” she said. “We make sure they’re ready to go and doing everything right.”

About Bank of America
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses, and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management, and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving roughly 67 million consumer and small-business clients with about 3,900 retail financial centers, nearly 16,000 ATMs, and award-winning digital banking with approximately 56 million verified digital users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking, and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions, and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to almost 3 million small-business households through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations across the United States, its territories, and 35 countries.

About the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Buffalo State University
The SBDC provides management and technical assistance to start-up and existing small businesses throughout Erie County and the Niagara Frontier. As a center with Buffalo State’s School of the Professions, the SBDC brings together the resources of SUNY Buffalo State, the private sector, and government agencies to counsel and train small businesses to resolve organizational, financial, marketing, technical, and other obstacles they may encounter. Any existing small business, firm, or individual considering starting a small business may request assistance. There are no charges for direct counseling by the SBDC under this program.

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