The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce has unveiled an initiative to create a hub for early-stage entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into new business ventures.

At a glance

Entrepreneur Crowd Program: the initiative created by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce that offers training and other resources needed to create successful, scalable businesses.

Target audience: early-stage entrepreneurs or individuals interested in developing business ideas.

The Catalyst Center: a space on the second floor of the chamber building that features laboratories, private meeting spaces, idea boards, presentation rooms and an audio/video studio.

Offerings: expert seminars, networking events with successful entrepreneurs, workshops and technical training

Price: Free for chamber members, $100 annual fee for nonmembers

Central to that effort is the creation of a Catalyst Center, a workspace designed to meet the needs of emerging entrepreneurs in the community. Plans were revealed Thursday for the 1,952-square-foot space at the chamber headquarters at 4500 Leeds Ave. in North Charleston.

"We are seeing what other growing metropolitan cities are doing to meet the needs of tomorrow's commerce, and so much of it is in the areas of entrepreneurs," said chamber spokeswoman Laura Bright. "To stay globally competitive, we needed to create a physical place where entrepreneurs can come, host webinars, exchange ideas and seek guidance."

The center, which is expected to be completed in June, will feature a video-audio presentation room, private meeting spaces and other office amenities. Beyond workspace, the Catalyst Center will serve as a platform for a number of new programs aimed at growing startup companies in the region.

Also Thursday, the chamber launched a website,, titled the Charleston Entrepreneur Ecosystem, to connect startup companies with investors, mentors and other contacts.

The recent efforts have been spearheaded by a task force of chamber executives and 25 entrepreneurs in the Charleston area. Billed as the Entrepreneur Council, the group has worked for the past year to create a comprehensive program with a workspace designed not only to inspire local entrepreneurial growth, but also to attract more startup companies to the area.

Megan Reilly, the innovation and entrepreneurship manager, said many of the programs were inspired by a trip to the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, which she said has succeeded in growing successful startup companies in the Tennessee city and surrounding areas.

"The entrepreneurs that were attracted to Nashville for that program stayed in Nashville and planted their businesses there, and that's what we want to do here," Reilly said.

The Catalyst Center and its related programs have been primarily funded by donations from Blue Cross Blue Shield and the SCRA, a South Carolina-based research and business development firm.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail