There are more than 1,100 two-year colleges in the United States, ranging from tiny tribal outposts to vast linked campuses across big cities. What these schools have in common is that they aim to serve their entire community, not just their students. This means they offer programs and support to help businesses like yours be successful. You don’t have to enroll to take advantage of the exciting opportunities community colleges have available.

Here are five resources provided by most community colleges that can benefit your business:

1. Short-term business courses. You’ll find a broad range of relevant courses designed for working adults, with topics such as computers, leadership skills, social media, conflict resolution, sales, and time management. For example, Arizona Western College offers an Entrepreneurial Center to assist with training and continuing education for business owners. “Local training is more cost effective than traveling out of town or traveling out of state,” says Maria Aguirre, associate dean of continuing education for Arizona Western College. “In today’s very competitive economy, businesses and individuals are looking for a reasonable return on investment of their time and financial resources. Investment in expansion of job skills is a smart decision for individuals as well as businesses.”

The center’s half-day classes cost between $49 and $99.

2. Website design services. You can hire a professional, of course. But you can also hire a whole class to design your salon’s website as a project. The cost will be about the same for you, and you’ll help students get real-world experience under their belt. With all that brainpower working under the supervision of a capable professor, you should end up with something really special.

To find out about hiring individual students on a project basis, or partnering with a professor, contact your local college’s job center. Every school has one and they will be thrilled to speak with you. You can set requirements, refine your request, and find out the going rates for hiring in your area. A good relationship with job center personnel means that you can turn to them for future needs as well.

3. Interns. When looking for interns, Aguirre recommends contacting the specific department the job would fall under. For your salon, that could be business, marketing, or esthetics, depending on your particular need. You’ll probably have to talk with the head of that department as well as a specific instructor to get approval so the student can get credit for her time working with you.

4. Print and design services. Colleges have entire offices full of skilled people creating materials for their events and programs. You can hire them too, usually at a good price, to work on your advertising and promotional pieces. In a small town, these may be the best professionals you can find. You’ll be able to meet with them in person, not just online, to figure out the best design for your needs.

5. Small business programs. Small business support programs offer individual counseling along with networking opportunities. The Small Business Development Center at Oregon’s Lane Community College offers a popular small business management program. Participants are able to go through the whole process of building a business, from plan to expansion. They work not only with experts, but other retailers in their area. That opportunity to bounce ideas and problems off each other provides a huge value.

Even better, Lane’s Small Business Development Center offers advice at no cost to businesses wanting help. Not every community college is able to go fee-free, but many have grants to cover administrative costs. Training is available in bookkeeping, human resources, leadership, and development.  


Eliana Osborn is a freelance writer living on the U.S.-Mexico border with her family.

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