NIC, Avista partner to offer entrepreneurship program

Avista is betting on North Idaho’s entrepreneur spirit.

Because of a $100,000, three-year grant from Avista Utilities, North Idaho College is offering an Integrated Business Entrepreneurship program spring semester. NIC is accepting applications until Dec. 19 for the 15-credit hour certificate program that begins in January. Program-specific scholarships are still available.

“If you’re looking to start anything from a muffler shop to a hair salon to a technology company, this program will teach you the skills you need to get started,” said Mike Allen, NIC Entrepreneurship instructor.

Students will learn how to evaluate their business concepts and start their own businesses. The program will also give them the background to evaluate whether or not they should buy a specific business, said Allen, who was hired by NIC in August after teaching entrepreneurship classes at Whitworth University and Eastern Washington University.

“Entrepreneurship is not just a program of study. It’s a life skill that can be applied to ideas throughout your life and career,” Allen said. “Our program gives students a well-rounded understanding of what it takes to get a business up and running. Part of being an entrepreneur is learning to be resilient. It’s not something you can do part-time.”

Students will submit their business plans to the Inland Northwest Business Plan Competition, a collaboration between Whitworth University, Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, Spokane Community College and NIC. The winner is awarded $5,000 to start a business.

After students earn their certificates, they’ll be eligible to apply for a business loan of up to $15,000 through the Avista Micro-Enterprise Loan Fund.

“Money is one of the main obstacles to starting a business,” said Steve Trabun, Avista regional business manager and project manager for the entrepreneur program. “We want to build a community of support, and the Loan Fund is one piece of that.”

Avista provided the $100,000, three-year grant to three other institutions as well as NIC: Spokane Community Colleges, Rogue Community College in Medford, Ore., and Walla Walla Community College-Clarkston. Each college is responsible for partnering with their community to create a support system for IBE students — Trabun called it an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Money is one piece of that puzzle; providing mentors is another, as is having a suitable place to work. SCC has created a space with tables and Internet access where students can work together, share information, and network — building a community of support.

“If we can get it figured out here, we can share it with others so they don’t have to start from scratch.”

This is not a traditional academic program. Its uniqueness is in that students learn relevant tools they can use — life skills.

“Our students are more well-rounded,” Trabun said. “The program will provide them with general exposure to all aspects of business, which will create a skill set that’s more valuable to employers than a specific degree.”
For Avista, it’s an opportunity to invest in the businesses of the future.

“Small businesses fail every year, so the more we can do to give them support, the better chance they have to be successful and sustainable,” Trabun said. “It’s all about creating jobs and business — and helping the community we serve. We’re striving for economic vitality at its best.”

For more information about the Integrated Business Entrepreneurship program, contact Mike Allen at (208) 769-3247 or at

For More Information
NIC Entrepreneurship Instructor Mike Allen, (208) 769-3247 or  

Posted: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013

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