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Assessing the impact of small business training on nascent entrepreneurs in Illinois (Harfst 2006)

Citation

Harfst, K. (2006). Assessing the impact of small business training on nascent entrepreneurs in Illinois (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertation and These database (UMI No. 3229827).

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of participation in a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) seminar on intentions to start a business.
    • The author administered a survey of his own design before and after respondents participated in an SBDC seminar and compared the respondents’ pre- and post-seminar responses on a series of items measuring intentions to start a business.
    • The study found no statistically significant relationships between participation in the SBDC seminar and intentions to start a business.
    • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not account for pre-intervention trends in participants’ entrepreneurial intentions. This means that we would not be confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the SBDC seminar; however, the study found no effects.

Features of the Study

The author investigated the effect of attending a business counseling seminar on participants’ interest in starting a business. The free seminar, offered at multiple locations through Illinois’ network of SBDCs, typically lasted two to three hours. Seminar topics included launching a business, relevant legal issues, business planning, and financing.

The author selected a sample of SBDC sites in the study using a stratified sampling design. One SBDC site was selected in each region with the exception of the Northeast region, where two SBDCs were selected. Site selection was based on the maturity of the business counseling program, recommendations from the state SBDC director, and the local SBDC director’s willingness to participate. Study participants attended a pre-counseling seminar within a four-month period, consented to participate in the study, and completed both the pre- and post- seminar surveys, for a total analytic sample size of 310 (about 30 participants per site). The author compared participants’ intentions to start a business before and after they attended the SBDC seminar.

Findings

    • The study found no statistically significant relationships between participation in the SBDC seminar and intentions to start a business.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author compared participants’ intentions to start a business measured once before and after they participated in an SBDC seminar. CLEAR’s guidelines require that authors observe outcomes for multiple periods before the intervention to rule out the possibility that participants’ outcomes were already increasing or decreasing before taking part in the program. In this context, if participants whose interest in and disposition toward entrepreneurship were increasing tended to attend the SBDC seminar, we would anticipate further improvements in their intent to start a business over time, regardless of the seminar’s effects. In the absence of evidence regarding pre-intervention trends, we cannot confidently separate the program’s effect from the effects of such trends.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not account for pre-intervention trends in participants’ entrepreneurial intentions. This means that we would not be confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the SBDC seminar; however, the study found no effects.

Reviewed by CLEAR

April 2016