Pictured left to right, Melissa Barth, executive director of the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce, Barbara Zwetzig, director of the Center for Business, Entrepreneurship and Tourism, and Bryan Walker, executive director of Spearfish Economic Development.
Black Hills State University is proud to announce its partnership with the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce to operate the new Black Hills Virtual business Incubation Program, BH VIP, from an office at the Chamber.

“The BH VIP is a ‘start small’ approach to business incubation for our rural community,” says Barbara Zwetzig, director of the Center for Business, Entrepreneurship and Tourism.  A membership to the program is by application and contract, just as for tenancy business incubator facilities, and is available month to month.  The fees include a range of services including business coaching, networking events, use of a conference room, and access to University faculty consultants and student interns for administrative work or special projects.  

“Most businesses that join will have a goal to achieve or a particular problem they want help to solve, or seek an evaluation of their situation.  A virtual program actually allows us to serve more businesses, regardless of their type, because they continue to operate from their primary place of business-whether they are a home based startup or manufacturing.  You don’t quite achieve the benefits of co-location, but we will bring the business owners together for meaningful networking and consulting on a monthly basis.  A virtual incubation program also helps to make mutually beneficial connections between businesses, something we found even with the five participants in our pilot program,” Zwetzig says.

More information about the BH VIP may be obtained by contacting Barbara at the Chamber 605-722-0034 in the mornings, or at her University office 605-642-6276 in the afternoons.  More about the director is found at www.bhsu.edu/cbet.

Director, Barbara Zwetzig of the Center for Business, Entrepreneurship & Tourism at Black Hills State University has been working with entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses from the region since she came on board with the University in 2008.  Black Hills Vision awarded seed money to the CBET in 2009 to investigate the feasibility of a business incubator to serve the northern Black Hills region.  The Center hosted a series of entrepreneurial business topic seminars at the university to bolster the business acumen for local business people.  Additionally the SBA Women’s Business Center grant for the state was awarded to BHSU and the SD Center for Enterprise Opportunity was established.  The SD CEO hosts ongoing business training seminars, helping to further create the supportive climate for entrepreneurship in our region.  An EDA grant in 2010 helped the CBET to complete a needs assessment for business incubation in the northern Black Hills.  The recommendation of that assessment was positive, and called for a small, mixed-use (mixture of technical and non-technical businesses) approach, with a strong affiliation with the university.  Since then, five local businesses volunteered for a pilot virtual program operated by the Center, to explore and determine the types of assistance that entrepreneurs and startups need.  “Business incubators as a rule do not generate sufficient revenue on their own to maintain operations.  The return on investment is realized by the creation of jobs and increased payroll and taxes.  Continued progress in incubator services will require multiple income streams including grants and community support.  We are now ready for a proof of concept phase, with space afforded graciously by the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce.   Membership will determine if we have a real need for an incubator building at some date in the future,” says Barbara.