SECU Public Fellows intern develops entrepreneurship resources for library

Libraries aren’t traditionally the place you go for small business support, but one East Carolina University student is changing that perception in Wayne County.

Accounting major Dejah McManus, an Indian Trail, native helped the Wayne County Public Library launch Project Click! this fall as part of her State Employees’ of North Carolina Public Fellows Internship (PFI).

Project Click! is a grant-funded program that assists aspiring business owners in the county by providing training and equipment to help get their new business off the ground. The program offers entrepreneurship training through the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program, virtual marketing webinars, access to a job and career accelerator database, and digital photography equipment and editing software.

Along with her aptitude for numbers, McManus had a strong background in business development that made her a perfect match for the Project Click! development team.

McManus, an accounting major, flexed her marketing skills to help promote Wayne County Library’s Project Click!. (Submitted by Dejah McManus)

“I love doing makeup,” McManus said. “During my junior year of high school, I put out a flyer before prom seeking clients. It went well and I’ve been doing it ever since. I learned that it doesn’t take much to start a business, but oftentimes entrepreneurs have nothing but their passion for their product or service. This internship gave me an opportunity to help new entrepreneurs who were like me a few years ago.”

While the library was an unexpected home for a small business incubator, McManus said after she spent more time with its personnel, she saw it as a perfect fit.

“It was unexpected, but appropriate,” she said. “The library is a big staple piece of the community. It’s a safe, quiet space that’s dedicated to helping its community members. They have so many programs going on that you’re not aware of. You may go in for a book, but you leave with a lot more.”

Recognizing the needs of its community members was a big reason why the library launched Project Click!, said Cindy Pendergraph, Wayne County Public Library reference department supervisor.

“It’s about knowing your community and knowing their needs,” Pendergraph said. “We saw that we have a population that’s eager to begin their own e-commerce businesses, whether they’re stay-at-home parents, newly returned veterans or online learners. They have the skills they need to start their own business, but they don’t have the resources. With grant funding and Dejah’s help, we were finally able to pool those resources together through Project Click! and make them readily available to the community free of charge.”

McManus said that her favorite part of the internship was getting into the entrepreneur mindset.

“Along with setting up the resources, I actually participated in the entrepreneurship training,” she said. “It definitely gave me a different way to look at starting a business. It’s not just about doing calculations and evaluations.”

Pendergraph said that without the PFI program’s support, it would have been a struggle to provide Project Click! to library users.

“It’s not a program that we would have been able to hire a new position for,” she said. “Working with programs like PFI and our other community partners is important because they give us the flexibility to launch programs like this in a short amount of time. Having Dejah was very beneficial. I hope she was able to take away something from the experience as well.”

Having the opportunity to give back eastern North Carolina was a big draw of the program, McManus added.

“Even though I’m not originally from here, it’s important to give back to the community wherever you are,” McManus said. “ECU has given me a lot, so why not reach back out and help in an impactful way? This program gave me that opportunity.”

The SECU Public Fellows Internship program at ECU connects the university and regional communities through projects that address community-identified priorities. Students are placed in government and nonprofit positions that allow them to develop leadership, analytical, problem solving, communication and project management skills.

Project Click! was supported by grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences under the provisions of the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources LS-246551-OLS-20.