News coverage from Clemson News

Through an array of state, federal and private partnerships, the Clemson Extension Agribusiness team has launched a comprehensive, one-stop-shop to provide expertise in a variety of areas for South Carolina start-ups.

Dedicated to enhancing and expanding local food and agricultural businesses in the state, the S.C. Center for Cooperative and Enterprise Development (SCCCED) is operated by Clemson University through Clemson Cooperative Extension and funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Cooperative Development Grant.

“We want to get the word out that there is help for people looking to put businesses together, whether that’s with initial structures or things like organizing or incorporating,” said SCCCED Director Steve Richards, an Agribusiness Master Extension associate. “The Center can provide technical assistance to cooperatives, mutually owned businesses and other small businesses within multiple industries, but with a strong focus on agricultural businesses. So, it’s more than just helping one person start one business, even though the center would help with that, too.”

SCCCED represents a collaborative effort between Clemson Extension, South Carolina State Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the S.C. Department of Agriculture (SCDA) and Matson Consulting.

“What’s nice is the Department of Agriculture has expertise in certain areas, Matson Consulting has expertise in cooperatives and Jim Johnson with SBDC is all over the state helping businesses get started and funded,” Richards said. “So, it’s a pretty good team that, whoever calls can get help from any number of people; it’s not just the Clemson Extension Agribusiness team. That’s what makes it strong.”

Kyle Player, executive director of the Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship (ACRE), a new initiative by the S.C. Department of Agriculture to capitalize on opportunities in the fields of agriculture, agricultural research and entrepreneurship, said the SCDA is excited to partner with Clemson Extension Agribusiness, S.C. State Small Business Development Center and Matson Consulting on the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant.

“We have had a strong working relationship in many capacities for the last few years and are looking to expand that even more with this grant,” Player said. “We all work extensively in rural South Carolina, but this gives us a unique opportunity to pool our resources and assist in forming new cooperatives and expand existing ones. Forming cooperatives can be difficult and time-consuming, and often, these rural businesses do not have the necessary resources or time. Thanks to the grant, the Center for Cooperative and Enterprise Development is able to do a large part of this legwork for them.”

An additional service to what the Extension Agribusiness team already provides, the Center will also provide help to non-profits and community or trade organizations.

“In my mind, that helps strengthen the entire industry if we can strengthen those trade groups — the peanut growers and soybean growers and cattleman’s association, for example,” Richards said. “The overall crowning goal is just rural economic development — trying to get things going in rural counties in South Carolina.”

And the Center does that through staff and partners with an established history of providing technical assistance and development activities to businesses in rural areas. It maintains a philosophy of working alongside clients to provide guidance through one-on-one or small group counseling, which helps staff provide more targeted versus generic assistance.

Areas of technical assistance include business planning and business plan development, financial management assistance, and education and training aimed at areas such as financial management, marketing, tax preparation, leadership skills, entrepreneurship, start-up cost, credit management and expanding business operations.