Doing What MATTERS for Small Business

Certificates Encourage Entrepreneurship at Fresno City College

[Pictured: Amber Balakian]

Amber Balakian, a business instructor at Fresno City College, heard from students across disciplines who wanted to start their own businesses or go into the freelance world after graduation but weren’t sure where to begin.

Balakian worked with faculty across the college to create four new certificates that integrate entrepreneurship into existing programs:

  • Air Conditioning Entrepreneurship
  • Computer Aided Drafting and Design Entrepreneurship
  • Music Industry Entrepreneurship
  • Welding and Fabrication Entrepreneurship

Balakian did not want to create programs that were radically new or challenging for students to attain, so she worked to integrate her business planning curriculum into existing certificates. She expects demand for entrepreneurship education in CTE fields will continue to grow.

“The individuals who are skilled in their fields typically make for the most successful entrepreneurs and business owners,” Balakian said. “I believe that we will continue to see demand for these types of certificates and skills increase over the next several years as we see significant social and economic changes take place.”

Balakian expects that the new certificates will be listed in the Fresno City College catalog no later than fall 2020. She said it’s easy to be turned off by the amount of paperwork required to make a curriculum change, but drew on her experience as an entrepreneur to navigate the process.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I am used to going out and building partnerships with other people, so this part was something that came somewhat naturally. However, the paperwork seemed daunting at first,” she said. “I suggest looking for ways to streamline the process by using template emails for faculty communications and utilizing Google Docs to draft narratives.”

Building on the success she’s achieved thus far, Balakian hopes to create certificates that fuse entrepreneurship with fitness, automotive, writing, art, theatre, engineering, and dance pending successful adoption of the initial group.

Outside of creating these programs, Balakian is also involved in planning a fashion show that brings together Fresno City College, Fresno State, Fresno Unified School District, and the local community. The Terracotta fashion event will be held this spring at Ratcliffe Stadium, and Balakian is hoping to attract up to 3,000 attendees. The event will allow students to design and sell products and services and support local entrepreneurs who participate as vendors.

Students also serve as models, designers and assist with marketing and logistics for the event.

This event is entirely student-driven and organized, including the event management,” Balakian said. “We are currently in the process of looking for sponsorship and grant funding opportunities, and welcome any and all suggestions.”

For more information on the certificates or the Terracotta event, contact Balakian at

Small Business Training and Development
Educators: Industry-Specific Curriculum Development
Students: Education & Career Pathways
Try Our Map Tool