The History of Berkshire Enterprises

Since 1989 Berkshire Enterprises has helped over 1100 people move their dreams from the idea stage to a business plan and has assisted the start of over 850 companies.

Berkshire Enterprises was founded when Pittsfield Mayor Anne Wojtkowski and Janet Taylor, Chair of the Regional Employment Board of Berkshire County, took an unusual step - they decided to use federal job training funding for entrepreneurial training. Their goal was to encourage unemployed people to both take charge of their lives and start new business ventures. The Maurice A. Donahue Institute of the University of Massachusetts was selected to run the new program. The program continues today with strong support from local, state and federal politicians.

The program founders, Alan Robertson and Vicky Singer, wanted to develop something more effective than simple classroom training. As former business owners, they had hands-on knowledge of the complex, all encompassing nature of small business ownership. Early on, they realized that every instructor involved in the program had to be a former business owner and that the program had to provide practical business knowledge. The curriculum that they developed was structured toward the goal of developing the business plan for each participant's own business. The learning process is experience intensive, self-directed and oriented to problem solving. Peer support is fostered by the interactive structure of the program. Continual feedback encourages an adaptive, fluid program and the supportive, can-do atmosphere necessary for encouraging entrepreneurship.

Since its beginning in 1989, Berkshire Enterprises has trained over 1100 individuals in self-employment skills and has assisted over 850 new businesses start. The innovative program developed at Berkshire Enterprises was recognized in 1993 when the project leaders were among the top 10 finalists for the Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year, awarded by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation and Inc. Magazine. In 1994 an evening program entitled Seminars in Entrepreneurship was initiated to assist the growing number of employed individuals wishing to start or grow a small business.

Berkshire Enterprises began working in affiliation with Berkshire Community College in 1998 and continues to offer programs in collaboration with the City of Pittsfield, Community Development Organizations, the Regional Employment Board, private companies and individuals. In September 2001 Berkshire Enterprises moved to its current location in Pittsfield, MA (One Fenn Street). Shortly thereafter in October, the Berkshire Business Information Center (BIC), an SBA co-sponsored business resource center, was formed and opened within the Berkshire Enterprises' suite. To this day, free monthly business breakfast forums are offered (made possible through contributions from local organizations). Additionally, The Pittsfield Enterprise Center, a small business incubator managed by Berkshire Enterprises, opened in January 2002.

Berkshire Enterprises' programs have expanded to provide entrepreneurial training in a variety of settings but all are governed by the credo ...

             Helping Entrepreneurs Turn Their Business Dreams Into Practical Realities.

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