- November 6, 2023
- Posted by: Staff
- Category: news
The Bowie Business Innovation Center (Bowie BIC) is an invaluable resource for businesses in Maryland and Prince George’s County businesses, providing support for growth and development. As a proud partner of FSC First and a Level Up resource partner, Bowie BIC offers a range of accelerator programs tailored to meet the unique needs of small businesses. Executive Director June Evans says their collaborative partnership with FSC First for the Level Up program allows them to extend their services even further.
On campus at Bowie State University within the Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community, Evans says one of the Bowie BIC’s most distinguishing features is its status as the only business accelerator on a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) campus in the State. Over the last fiscal year, they’ve offered services to nearly 350 businesses in Prince George’s County alone. Nine enterprises – all owned by individuals from underrepresented communities — are participating members with office space on campus.
Bowie BIC offers three accelerator programs. Their flagship offering provides office space to participating businesses and access to university resources. The Bowie BIC accelerator doesn’t work with startups but caters to companies with at least two years in business and $200,000 in revenue.
“Our member businesses are in an intermediate phase, and we help them determine what they need to grow to the next level,” says Evans. “Our location on Bowie State’s campus allows members access to University resources, like conference rooms, the makerspace, and coworking space. They have the space they need at a significantly reduced rate. Integrating with the University helps businesses tap into human capital and benefits the students by helping them gain valuable work experience. Working on an HBCU campus is also great because our location in an area with many historically underserved populations allows us to connect with the audience we hope to serve more effectively.”
Bowie BIC’s 8(a) Accelerator, the first established nationally, offers a six-week program for helping underrepresented businesses gain federal contracts. The U.S. Small Business Administration maintains the nine-year 8(a) Business Development Program, and the accelerator works with current participants.
“Trying to leverage 8(a) certification can be difficult, and many of the companies we work with come to us through that program,” says Evans. “Last year, Senator Ben Cardin awarded us $3 million to launch the Center of Excellence for 8(a) Government Contracting pilot program. Eventually, that will expand to other HBCU campuses nationally and help expand underrepresented businesses’ reach into the federal sphere even more. It’s so exciting that Bowie BIC was selected for that opportunity.”
Through their Level Up accelerator program, Evans says the Bowie BIC helps participants explore how to access capital and grow their ventures. Unlike their other offerings, their Level Up program is open to earlier-stage companies. The program demystifies participating businesses’ questions about finances and helps them build a plan for success. The Level Up accelerator is offered in cohorts, with 17 business owners participating in the most recent round and 35 in one held earlier this year.
“Level Up is a perfect complement to our other accelerator programs,” says Evans. “It helps our participants with capacity building, which is critical. Our instructors are great; some are even graduates of the Bowie BIC accelerator and introduce students to our other work. That means that the facilitators know what we’re about firsthand and that they’ve been successful after participating. It’s wonderful to see them come full circle.”
Evans says Bowie BIC’s partnership with FSC First has been “a tremendous success.”
“Financial capacity is critical for business success. No entrepreneur can survive with bad finances,” says Evans. “You must understand key concepts like your debt-to-credit ratio, how financing works for businesses, and how to access the capital you need to keep growing. It’s easy to get stuck. Level Up helps us go deep into these topics and gives everyone access to opportunities. This is such a great partnership.”
“Our Level Up community partnerships help us increase access to capital for businesses all across Prince George’s County, and the Bowie BIC is a vital part of that mission,” says FSC First Chief Financial Officer Beverly Everson-Jones. “Their efforts to help bolster underrepresented communities mirror our own, which makes them a natural partner. We are immensely grateful to have Bowie BIC as a valued collaborator in our mission.”
Learn more about the Level Up program here.