The Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the University of North Georgia with a new initiative to support small businesses. The program, called Profs for FoCo, matches North Georgia professors with small business owners to provide free consulting.
“The Forsyth County Chamber and UNG have had a partnership for some time. They have always been a great partnership to us,” says Laura Stewart, the Forsyth County Chamber’s Vice President of Community Engagement. She says that it was the perfect match as the chamber began to really see the impacts of COVID-19 on the small business community. “We knew that we really needed to focus, especially in 2020, on the economic impacts,” she added.
The solution came in the form of UNG professors, many of whom have had previous businesses experience and want to give back to the community. As of now, over 20 professors have agreed to provide free consultation services on topics such as marketing, economics, technology, manufacturing processes and more.
According to Stewart, the program exists to benefit the individual business and is flexible to meet the needs of each particular business. “Each business is different… it may be a non-profit, for example, and we want to focus on the areas that they need the most help with. Each professor is open to what each business needs.” She says that there is no formal agreement on what that looks like. Initially, it begins with a consultation and may even lead to on-site visits. “Our professors have agreed to do this, they want to do this and they are excited and flexible to help provide what that that business needs most.”
The need of the business is determined by an online application. From there, based on their biggest requests, they are matched with a faculty member from the UNG Mike Cottrell College of Business.
“The Mike Cottrell College of Business is uniquely positioned to serve as a resource for businesses in our region and beyond,” according to Dr. Mary Gowan, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Dean of the College. “In fact, in the midst of the uncertainty faced by so many for profit and not-for-profit organizations around us, we believe that it is our responsibility to share our expertise in ways that will help these organizations navigate their way forward. Doing so creates a win-win situation for our region and opens doors for further engagement with the college.”
While the program was birthed out of a desire to help businesses meet the economic challenges of a global pandemic, Stewart says she sees long-term potential. “We saw an opportunity not just in a time of crisis, but continuing on of support between the professionals at the educational level and our small business owners and business leaders.”
This program is free and no charge to the business. Any business in Forsyth County, not just chamber members, are encouraged to take advantage of the partnership opportunity. To request a match, business owners can simply go online to profsforfoco.org to fill out an application.