Busybusybusy

I’ve been a bit scarce around the blog this past week. Scarce everywhere online, actually, because I’ve been busybusybusy!

MrH and I are taking a class, Small Business Ownership Basics, through the Small Business Center at Carteret Community College.

The class is intense! For starters, it’s normally taught two nights a week over a four-week period, but because of the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s been compressed to two weeks. This means we’re meeting three nights a week, and each session is four hours long.

Since most folks are putting in a full day’s work before they come to class, that makes for some long days!

The class also requires a lot of participation. A couple of times a night, we break into small groups for various exercises ranging from evaluating a business plan to stacking candies in order to practice setting attainable goals.

There is some lecture, and a lot of it builds on things I’ve learned over the years in the Small Business Roundtables also put on by the SBC.

I’m really enjoying the class and getting to know my fellow students. We’re an older crowd – only one of us is under thirty. MrH and I are one of three couples taking the class together. And every person in the class has an interest they’re passionate about and the drive to turn it into a business.

So, yeah. Intense. 🙂

A Great Learning Experience

I’m learning a lot about starting a small business. How to write a business plan. What resources are available for startup entrepreneurs. The legal requirements for starting a business in North Carolina. Marketing strategies.

I’m also learning a lot about taking a class as a blind student, which is one of the reasons I signed up.

I’ve taken free seminars through the SBC before, but each one lasted only one evening, though some did offer parts which built on each other. This class, however, requires twenty-four hours of instructional time, each night building on the previous nights’ information. There are readings to complete outside of class, and assignments you can do on your own time.

In other words, it works like a real class. And yes, I’m having to push to keep up.

On the other hand, the class isn’t graded, not even pass/fail. Students who finish the class get a certificate of completion. That makes this a low-risk environment in which to test my wings.

Since MrH is also taking the class, I have someone to help me if I need it, but who will step back and let me do things on my own. We also know the instructor from the Small Business Roundtables, so she’s somewhat familiar with me.

What I’ve Learned So Far

One thing I’ve learned is that the computer isn’t much help for this style of class. It gets in the way when we’re working in groups, and I can’t really use it for in-class exercises or readings because I can’t hear both it and the people around me.

After the first day, I left the computer at home and resigned myself to making time outside of class to work through the readings and individual assignments. I’ve also had to get used to asking for help to read things that are passed out during class.

It’s taken a while to get oriented to the room.

The building we’re in houses the college library, where I used to go a lot, but we’re at the other end so that knowledge hasn’t helped much. The classroom has an interior and an exterior door, two partitions which may be open or closed, and chairs and tables that get rearranged a lot.

On the first day, I let MrH guide me. Since then, I’ve started getting used to the room and its layout and gotten bolder about moving around on my own. I’m pretty comfortable now navigating the room and the hall that leads to the bathrooms, but I still need help getting to the building from the parking area, and I want to figure out how our part of the building connects with the library part I’m familiar with.

It would probably have been a good idea to set up a dry run before class so I could wander around and get accustomed to the classroom layout,or at least to have MrH describe it to me in detail the first night.

I’m not sure what our fellow students thought about my blindness at first. We were all somewhat quiet the first night, and warmed up as we got used to each other and working in groups.

I think it really helped to have MrH along, and that the instructor knew all of us well. The three of us treated my blindness as no big deal, and everyone else followed our lead. Now, I’m just one of the crowd.

As we go along, I’m figuring out what kinds of help I need and gaining confidence in asking for it. When we broke into a group to do one of the exercises, I asked who was in the group and we went around the table giving our names. Easy.

I’ve made a point of trying to learn everyone’s names and the businesses they’re starting. Since I don’t have a visual image for each person, knowing a little cluster of facts about them gives me a clue to identify individuals.

I’m trying to learn voices, too, but it’s taking me a while and I’m not sure how well I’d recognize them outside the context of the classroom.

The final thing I’m learning is that I can be a full participant in the class and that I have as much to offer my classmates as they have to offer me.

I take part in the classroom and group discussions and in the group activities. At times, someone has to read the handout to me, and I did sit out the accounting exercise, but I participate in just about everything and I’m not afraid to speak up.

I even did the “Back to Back” exercise, where one partner described a picture to the other, who had to draw it.

I was ready to sit that one out, but the instructor paired me up like everyone else. My partner’s description was extremely precise and I managed the first drawing quite well.

For the second round, MrH described the picture to both our partners, as I couldn’t see it. The third round was more complicated, as the picture had more elements. When we’d finished, my partner said I’d gotten all the pieces right, though they weren’t connected with each other. She started brainstorming ways to describe the picture so that I could draw it better.

It was a great confidence-booster – for both of us, I think – and a wonderful icebreaker.

In Other News…

We’ve had some other fun stuff going on, including a Carteret Writers group meeting for me and an all day SCA event Saturday that kept me in the kitchen Thursday morning and most of Friday.

We’ve got class again this week, and the week after that we’re having friends over for Thanksgiving – more cooking! After that, of course, is the run up to the winter holidays. Somewhere in there, I’ve got to make up some ground on the writing projects I’ve been neglecting.

Expect posting to be a little sparse, though I’ll try to drop by as much as possible.

How have you been? Has life been keeping you busy lately, too? Any exciting Thanksgiving – or other – plans?

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