Students, professors discuss classes offered by CCV and The Lightning Jar

Prospective students, former students and professors gather at an open house at the Lightning Jar in Bennington.

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BENNINGTON — Local coworking space The Lightning Jar and the Bennington division of Community College of Vermont hosted an open house recently for interested entrepreneurs to learn about two classes being offered this fall.

Over a dozen people came to the open house — some were prospective students, others were alums from previous classes.

JJ Williams, CEO of Williams Financial, taught the first section of the class last year and attended the open house to chat with the current professors and prospective students.

A program's inception

Williams has been an entrepreneur for several years and co-chairs the program's steering committee. He's lived in Bennington his entire life and thought the area could use a grassroots movement. Thus, the program was born. It is based upon the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program and focuses largely on teaching entrepreneur skill sets.

He believes encouraging entrepreneurship is a way to guarantee jobs.

"People say there's no jobs around here," he said. "There are jobs if you can create them."

Williams knows that when people think entrepreneurs, many of them think of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. However, those wildly successful and rich entrepreneurs are only a fraction of all of the entrepreneurs all over the country.

In the future, he would like to see the program offered throughout Vermont, perhaps in places such as Manchester and Rutland.


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Robert Braathe, of Troy, N.Y., has extensive experience being a professor and has worked for companies like Disney and Apple. He is bringing his knowledge to Bennington to teach the first class, An Entrepreneurial Mindset, which begins Sept. 5.

He describes the class as an "idea-generating class" and also plans to have his students examine the eight myths of entrepreneurship, showing them that anyone can be an entrepreneur if they put their mind to it- even if they aren't wealthy or don't have connections to other business owners.

Dara Zink previously took the class with Braathe, intending to start her own martial arts studio. Now, she is rolling out a six-week women's self defense course.

"The idea got shifted," she said.

Roberta Stange also took Braathe's class and is well on her way to launching her online business.

Elaine Haytko will teach the second course, Entrepreneurship: New Topics in Business Venturing. This will be her first time teaching this course, but she has extensive experience as an adjunct professor at CCV. There, she has taught classes relating to management and business with a special focus in planning.

Haytko firmly believes that entrepreneurship is a life skill and has important aspects for anyone to learn, so she often brings entrepreneurial learning aspects into the classroom. Her course welcomes entrepreneurs of all ages and seeks to give those who dream of starting a business the proper tools to succeed. She hopes for students in the class to be able to support each other through their business journeys and possibly even team up.

"I think we have some passionate people," she said. "[Teaching this class] is incredibly exciting for me and Robert."

Christie Wisniewski can be reached at and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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