It took only minutes for budding entrepreneurs to start networking with business owners during a ribbon cutting at Golden West College on Friday morning.
The Huntington Beach college, in association with the grassroots group Oak View Renewal Partnership, introduced its new entrepreneurship center called CIELO, for Community for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Opportunities.
The $500,000 center, in the south wing of Golden West's former library, will be a hub where aspiring entrepreneurs from the Oak View community — a low-income Latino neighborhood in Huntington Beach — and the rest of the city can take out small loans, use the facility as a temporary office and be mentored by business owners.
"This is just the beginning," said Iosefa Alofaituli, executive director of the Oak View Renewal Partnership. "Over the summer, we've got to incorporate and leverage all these resources so that when we start in the fall, someone can walk in and receive those services."
Heading the new center is Pilar Montoya, former chief operating officer of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, a national organization that encourages Latino students to go into science, technology, engineering and math.
She said she joined the entrepreneurship effort because she wanted to help people fulfill their potential.
"I absolutely fell in love with the vision of CIELO because it's about not just inspiring individuals to see themselves with a business and a career, but it's surrounding them with services like lending, technical assistance and experts," Montoya said. "The failure rate for businesses can be high unless you really surround yourself with a lot of support."
Bern Baumgartner, a business professor at Golden West College and the advisor for the recently created Entrepreneurship Club on campus, said he's looking forward to using the center to help students and community members become better entrepreneurs.
"We'll be able to bring students academic training and skills, but this is also going to allow them to bring that academic learning and ideas that they've developed and actually launch their business," he said.
In correlation with the center, Golden West College this semester launched an eight-week entrepreneurship program in English and Spanish to teach students and others the basics of starting a business. Many of those who took the class were honored during Friday's event.
Robert Tapia, a community outreach specialist with Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, was one of the students in the pilot class. Tapia, 33, said he has a passion for television production and hopes to open a media studio.