ST. CLOUD -- When Precious Drew was a student at the College of St. Benedict, she started her own company recycling coffee grounds from the campus coffee shop into natural beauty products. She turned a profit with the idea.

Now, Drew aims to help other local entrepreneurs spin their ideas into lucrative businesses.

Drew is the new director of gBETA Greater Minnesota/St. Cloud. gBETA, located in cities around the United States and Canada, is a free, seven-week support program for anyone in the early stages of launching their own business.

Drew comes equipped with the academic and practical skills for the job. She graduated from the College of St. Benedict in 2018, majoring in Global Business and completing a fellowship in entrepreneurship while running her business.

“I got to see the good and the ugly sides of entrepreneurship while a student," Drew says. "It really created a passion and a love for this crazy world that takes so much work, but is so rewarding.”

In her role with gBETA, Drew will lead cohorts of budding entrepreneurs, chosen through an application process, and connect them with area companies, mentors and regular networking opportunities. The gBETA program will offer lunch and learns, one-on-one coaching sessions, and "pitch nights," giving participants a chance to share their ideas with local investors. They'll also learn about market size and revenue models.

She says there’s a local need for this kind of training.

“Entrepreneurship is here in St. Cloud. We’re seeing it. But we don’t have that connected ecosystem.”

The “ecosystem,” as Drew explains, refers to a well-connected entrepreneurial community. Drew says startups need to be familiar with one another, and the business community as a whole, in order to succeed.

“It’s about networking,” Drew “Who do they know, and who does that person know as well?”

Drew says gBETA will help participants understand if there’s a market for their idea in central Minnesota.

“It’s really figuring out what does the community want?" Drew says. "If you’re creating something the community doesn’t necessarily need, it’s harder for them to engage.”

Drew says she hopes gBETA will help attract and retain talent in the community.

“It’s a great place to start a business,” Drew says. “It’s a great place to start a family and create a life. We’re trying to bring that to the forefront.”

Right now, gBETA is recruiting for its first cohort, limited to five participants. The application deadline is Oct. 18 and the program launch date is Oct. 31. Drew says she’s already busy sifting through applications and meeting with people to learn about their ideas.

She says she’s seeing a wide range of business concepts ranging from education to food service to housing.

“We’re open to every stage – from just an idea, to already generating revenue,” Drew says.

gBETA St. Cloud’s office is based out of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation headquarters. Drew will be holding office hours, open to anyone interested in the program. To learn more, visit the gBETA website.