Free lunch — and free laptop: Enterprise Center of N.J., Wells Fargo surprise 5 Camden-area small businesses

Winners selected at random as part of event held in conjunction with Small Business Week

Five local business owners in Camden were surprised this week with a Business Accelerator Toolkit — a package that included a laptop, Microsoft Office products, QuickBooks subscription and training, as well as a check for $1,000.

The award came during a free educational luncheon for local business owners at the Salvation Army Camden Kroc Center. The event, sponsored by the Enterprise Center of New Jersey and Wells Fargo, was in conjunction with National Small Business Week. The winners were selected at random from the attendees.

Victoria Hosendorf, executive vice president of the Enterprise Center of New Jersey, said the group was delighted to help.

“Many of our small business clients struggled to adapt to virtual operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are still facing a digital divide,” she said. “We created these Business Accelerator Toolkits so that we can work with small business owners to develop a strong foundation for digitizing their business operations.

“Along with our partners at Wells Fargo, we continue to invest in the long-term sustainability of Camden and South Jersey, which starts with thriving commercial corridors. We are thrilled to share this opportunity with the communities we serve.”

Building on last year’s small business event, the Enterprise Center and Wells Fargo kicked off the morning with a fireside chat between Wells Fargo Small Business Development Manager Alima Redding and Camden Community Partnership CEO and President Dana Redd, the former Camden Mayor.

The two spoke to about 100 attendees on the continuous challenges small business owners have faced since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also discussed innovative solutions and partnerships that have sprung up in the wake of this need, such as the Enterprise Center’s Biz on Wheels and Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund.

Paralee Knight, vice president of philanthropy and community impact at Wells Fargo, said the bank was glad to be able to participate.

“We are so pleased to be back in Camden at the Kroc Center supporting the amazing small business owners who work so hard for the economic vitality of their neighborhoods,” she said. “As the ‘Bank of Doing,’ Wells Fargo is proud to recognize these entrepreneurs and nonprofits for continuing to get it done in their own community.”

After the discussion, small business owners then had a chance to network and receive guidance from small business experts during breakout sessions. Topics included securing capital, understanding the city’s procurement processes, Urban Enterprise Zone certification and New Jersey Economic Development Authority grants and programs.

They were also able to visit resource tables staffed by the Camden Business Association, Camden Community Partnership, Latin American Economic Development Association and Parkside Business & Community in Partnership Inc.

Food for the event was catered by Rolls Bowls, a Camden-based business, and entertainment was provided by DJ Shorty Rock.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners can visit the Camden Cares Business Center site for more information on resources and the Biz on Wheels schedule.