Benton Development Group, Vinton Unlimited and Belle Plaine Community Development have partnered with the Small Business Development Center to bring a series of engaging educational opportunities to Benton County for our small business community.  The series will be made up of 9 sessions that focus on getting, keeping and growing customer bases.  “One of the most exciting elements of this project is that all of the sessions will be very interactive.  The ultimate goal of this program is to give leaders the tools they need to take action in their business, that is why we decided to call this the Action Academy.” said Emily Upah, Benton Development Group. Along with the series being very interactive, we also look for the series to be very high energy to help motivate our businesses to take action. “We can promise this won’t be a boring lecture series” states Melissa Schwan, Vinton Unlimited.
The big picture of the series is to provide different entrepreneurship perspectives to our local small business community.  Here in Vinton we’ve been talking with some of our local businesses and some common themes have emerged regarding their small businesses stated  Schwan. “Those common themes gave us a starting point and helped the SBDC prepare the series that best targets our needs.” The series will be based around the ideas of getting, keeping and growing customer bases by engaging in educational experiences.  When we break that down, we will really give our businesses the appropriate tools to think about their value proposition, who their key customers are, how their customers want to receive their services, what sets you apart from your competition, etc.  
The Small Business Development Center has really helped us narrow our ideas and put together a series that has greatly exceeded our expectations.  With their connections, the speakers coming to our local events have deep roots in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Their experiences range from leadership coaching, marketing gurus, customer experts, Iowa Venture School graduates, and much more.  The SBDC is also taking this on as somewhat of a pilot project which they hope to offer in Marion and other communities throughout their service territory.  
The Action Academy is open to all businesses in Benton County and free for those who attend.  Our kick off session is on February 16th from 5:30pm to 7:00pm at the Van Horne Community Center.  The remainder of the sessions will be held twice a month from 7:30am-8:30am, rotating between Belle Plaine and Vinton.  “We feel there is so much value in bring our business communities together for these events in order collaborate, learn from different business climates and experiences and to build an open network.” said Upah.  
Please visit the calendars on the Benton Development Group and Vinton Unlimted websites for dates and locations.  Feel free to contact the BDG, VU or BPCDC offices for more information regarding the Action Academy.