More than 400 people crowded into offices at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center last week to learn what business opportunities the new venture has to offer.

More than 400 people crowded into offices at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center last week to learn what business opportunities the new venture has to offer.

Dublin director of economic development Dana McDaniel said the turnout was greater than expected, because small businesses had been calling for appointments before the March 19 open house at the DEC, 7003 Post Road.

"We figured we'd have about 100 people on and off," McDaniel said.

Visitors networked and spoke with representatives of DEC businesses, which offer services such as mentoring and help formulating a business plan. Attendees also mingled in empty office space that's up for rent.

Everything went according to plan, McDaniel said.

"The effort here is to introduce people to the physical space and the social media outlet," he said.

While the DEC offers businesses physical space for their offices as well as help from groups such as TechColumbus and a branch of Columbus State's center for work force development, the building also is designed to bring people together.

The DEC is looking into an emerging way of working for small business owners called "co-working," which brings together people who work at home to share energy and ideas.

"We have a lot of home-based businesses in Dublin. A lot of these are successful, but (the owners) want interaction," McDaniel said.

He said the DEC will host co-working events that were previously held in coffee shops, libraries and restaurants.

Dublin resident Sandy Blanquera is part of Social Boomerang, a company that teaches others to use social networking for marketing, advertising and more. She has an office in German Village but has been a part of co-working activities and "jellies," which also bring people together to work for a day.

"When people go to jellies they realize all the people they're not meeting at home," she said.

According to Blanquera, people who work at home are excited to get out of isolation and around other people.

The DEC, along with co-working facilities Sandbox and Qwirk, will offer jellies three times a month.

"We have more people scheduled for the DEC jelly than any other," Blanquera said. "People want to be here."

While some will use the DEC on a monthly basis or a few times a month, other businesses have taken up residence.

During the open house, Bob Mahaffey tried to get the word out about the Dublin Entrepreneurial College he just opened at the DEC. The nine- and 12-week courses were developed by Mahaffey after he started his own business in his garage six years ago. The business, Xcelerate Media, is now located in Historic Dublin.

"I went back and took notes on what I would do differently," he said, " and came up with the 12-week course for entrepreneurs."

In addition to classes, the 12-week course also requires students to begin their own startup company.

"You take courses, work in the (business) entity and when you graduate you own the entity," Mahaffey said.

The student also will have a stake in the school.

"The faculty owns 70 percent (of the school) and students own 30 (percent)," Mahaffey said.

When students leave the school, they'll still have a stake as well as experience in a startup and a business plan.

The nine-week course is aimed at local corporations. Mahaffey said companies can send employees to the course to learn how to "come up with new products or savings for the companies."

For more information on the DEC, look online at www.dublin.oh.us or contact the economic development department at (614) 410-4619.