Taking Care of Business

In 1964, Southern University-Shreveport (SUSLA) opened its doors in the MLK neighborhood of north Shreveport. The campus is a branch of Southern University and A&M College-Baton Rouge and part of the Southern University System, the only public black university system in the nation.

Since its opening, Southern has been an integral part of the MLK community offering associate degrees in four fields of study as well as a variety of certificate programs. In recent years, however, Southern has broadened its scope of outreach and assistance to include community-based programs designed to help youth such as BizCamp for teens, Youth Network Initiative, and Upward Bound.

SUSLA's most recent undertaking is the development of a Small, Women, & Minority-Owned Business Incubator. Funded in part with a HUD Historically Black Colleges and Universities grant, the business incubator provides support to fledging businesses by reducing overhead during the start-up period.

How does it work? Several companies, all of which have individual offices, share the cost of building space, office equipment, and clerical support. The businesses have access to the incubator's training facilities and business counseling services. Darrin Dixon, who manages the incubator, sees first hand how shared services and support help new small businesses succeed. "By taking away that overhead, it frees up money to put back into their company," said Dixon.

One of the businesses at SUSLA's Small, Women, & Minority Owned Business Incubator in Bossier City is Felicia Posey's Training Academy for Dental Assistants. Ms. Posey, who is a Dental Hygienist, was approached by several area dentists about the shortage of qualified dental assistants.

Having worked 19 years in various positions in the dental field, she felt confident about developing the technical aspects of a training school for dental assistants but needed help with some of the business issues. That's when the professional staff from the Incubator stepped in. "They taught me about such things as bonding insurance and provided assistance with staffing and other office support activities," said Posey.

Now about one year after the opening of her Training Academy for Dental Assistants, Felicia is all smiles. She has 24 students and considers herself years ahead of schedule because of the support and services provided by SUSLA's Small, Women and Minority Owned Business Incubator. Southern University-Shreveport is stepping beyond the traditional role of a university and making a positive impact in the greater community.

By helping small business owners like Ms. Posey, SUSLA is creating opportunities for its students, its neighbors, while "taking care of business."

Content Archived: July 18, 2011