Entrepreneurship is on the rise in Philadelphia.
As a result, the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC), located at the Parkway Central Library branch, has experienced a major increase in the demand for their services. The Center, which helps entrepreneurs at every stage of development achieve their business goals, is moving into a larger space in 2018 to accommodate this need. In addition to allowing for expanded services and enhanced programming, BRIC’s new space will integrate and improve the library’s vocational services, which helps local jobseekers connect with local employers.
The Fox School’s Center for Executive Education (CEE) designed an extended workshop series to help BRIC craft a vision and plan for this expansion. Led by Tyra Ford, TL Hill, Dave Nash, and Becca Zinn, 22 Free Library employees attended six workshops across four days. Some of the topics covered were developing a business plan, the economics of business, and launching a new business.
“One thing we wanted to do was gain more confidence in business processes and terminology, so that when people come in and ask questions, we can better help them,” explains Rebekah Ray, an administrative librarian at BRIC. “As a result of this training, our business librarians have developed better workshops and improved business research because we have more understanding of the processes.”
Prior to the CEE workshops, BRIC would bring in other consultants and outside experts to host entrepreneurship and professional development trainings for community members. But now the staff has the confidence and knowledge to do it themselves. One of the new courses BRIC offers is called “Business Plan Toolkit,” and it’s specifically based on what the team learned from one of the CEE workshop assignments.
“One of our assignments was to create a business model canvas, and we did it for BRIC to map out our goals and strategies,” says Ray. “It allowed us to hone in on our customer segment, what we do well and what we don’t, and what we needed to do to reach our goals.”
BRIC recently won a grant that will make it possible for them to teach their “Business Plan Toolkit” course at four neighborhood branches of the Free Library. They’ll also now be able to give students free books and course software access.
“We wouldn’t have gotten the grant without this training,” claims Ray. “Before we could apply for grants like this and undertake these projects ourselves, we needed the confidence and knowledge from the workshop. Now we know how to offer the community better guidance and education.”
“And now,” she continues, “we are confident we’re moving into our new space with a turnkey program.”