How to find the funds to be able to start a small business

Creating your own business can involve some startup costs, so keep that in mind.

You may need to invest in equipment, tools, supplies, advertising and office space. Some jobs might require a truck to haul things around. Make a list of all the items you think will be necessary for operating the business and find out how much each of them would cost by searching Craigslist or other online sources or visiting stores.

But starting a business requires more than just stuff. You need to create the foundation on which it will operate, and one of the best ways to do this is to put together a business plan. This written plan will explain who you are; what you are going to do; and how, why and where you will do it.

Although you can turn to a nonprofit organization like those listed in last week’s blog post to help you with this, a great place to start is on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website. There you can complete an online business plan template, which takes you step by step through the process. Check it out at http://web.sba.gov/busplantemplate/BizPlanStart.cfm

Completing a business plan will show that you are serious about your business and having one will be necessary if you intend to seek startup funding. If you don’t have enough money to start your business, you might want to look into getting funding from a micro-lender.

These organizations traditionally have given small oans to people in developing nations – Peruvian farmers, African craftswomen or street vendors in India, for example. These days, however, they’re also busy funding entrepreneurs in the U.S. who want to start or expand a business but can’t afford to do so and give loans of $500 to $100,000.

Accion USA, with headquarters in New York and offices around the country, is one of these micro-lenders, as is kiva.org. Both of these give loans to people nationwide. Micro-lenders who work on a more localized basis include Justine Peterson in St. Louis, Project Enterprise in New York City, Opportunity Fund in San Jose, Calif., the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund and ACE Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs in Cleveland, Ga.

With a little bit of confidence, a lot of preparation and thought and some help from a micro-lender, you should have what you need to get a business together.

For more information on the  micro-lenders mentioned in this article, visit their   websites:

Accion USA   www.accionusa.org

Kiva.org   www.kiva.org

Justine Petersen   www.justinepetersen.org

Project Enterprise   www.projectenterprise.org

Opportunity Fund   www.opportunityfund.org

Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund   www.umllf.com

ACE Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs   http://www.aceloans.org

 

Think outside the box: Find success by starting your own business

Looking for a job might not be the best way to find employment for some ex-offenders. Those who have tremendous drive, creativity and an ability to solve problems may want to consider starting their own business.

Although many believe that people in re-entry do best in a structured environment, many who end up incarcerated got there because they were entrepreneurs. They were running a business – it just happened to be an illegal one.

But that same entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to hustle, to come up with moneymaking ideas and to implement them could prove the key to success. For some, it might be easier than finding a job working for someone else. And they won’t be alone.

The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in April 2012, there were 8.5 million unincorporated self-employed workers out of a U.S. labor force of 141.9 million. That equals about 6 percent of the total workforce.

Although internet-related businesses may get the most hype, the majority of these workers run old-fashioned service business. As people’s lives get busier and more complicated, they’re turning to others to provide many of the things they used to do themselves, whether it’s yard work, pet care or preparing meals. Whatever your skill level, opportunities exist to launch a small business with one or maybe two workers. You just have to find a need and fill it.

Maybe you have a special interest, like painting, cooking, gardening, dog walking or even collecting recyclables. Explore ideas on the web and get to know someone in another town who is doing the business you’re interested in. Be honest and tell them you’d like to start a business like theirs, but since you’re in another area, you won’t be competition.

There are a wide variety of business opportunities, many of which don’t need high skill levels or even much education. These include handyman or janitorial service, firewood supplier, yard work, house painting, tree trimming, graffiti removal, recycling, errand runner and housekeeping.

Once you have an idea for a business, there are people and organizations in the community that can help you put it together. They provide great resources that are often low-cost or no-cost, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.

The Small Business Administration, which maintains offices in every major U.S. city, is one of them. Its offices put on various workshops, most of which are free, dealing with everything from accounting issues and how to use the Internet for marketing to getting organized and increasing sales.

SCORE, a nonprofit organization with 13,000 members in 364 chapters nationwide, matches successful former business owners with entrepreneurs who are just starting out. SCORE offers free and confidential business advice through online and face-to-face mentoring.

There are many nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. that help people launch small businesses. Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, provides classes, low-cost, one-on-one consulting services and a business incubator with low-priced office and cubicle space.

Wesst, headquartered in Albuquerque, operates six Enterprise Centers across the state that offer workshops, webinars and private consulting, as well as small business loans.

The New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, located on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, N.H., provides one-on-one advice to new and existing businesses in New Hampshire.

Creating a small business takes a lot of work, but opportunities are abundant for those with initiative. We’d love to hear some success stories from ex-offenders or those who work with them. Please send them our way.

For more information on the organizations included in this article, visit their websites at:

Small Business Administration   www.sba.org

SCORE   www.score.org

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center   www.rencenter.org

Wesst   www.wesst.org

New Hampshire’ Small Business Development Center   www.nhsbdc.org

 

 

Texas program fosters inmate entrepreneurs

We at Jails to Jobs love to hear about other programs that are helping those incarcerated find gainful employment upon release, and we heard about one recently that may be unrivaled.

Based at Cleveland State Prison in Cleveland, Texas, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program acts on the belief that exceptional talent exists behind bars, and that many inmates were actually successful entrepreneurs. The only problem is they ran illegal businesses.

It all began in 2004 when former Wall Street executive and UC Berkeley Haas School of Business alumnus Catherine Rohr toured a prison. Impressed by the passion and business acumen she found among inmates, Rohr left her investment career to create the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

PEP operates at the Cleveland Correctional Facility, a 520-bed pre-release facility in Cleveland, Texas.  The organization works with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to identify potential male participants from correctional facilities throughout the state. Only 15 to 30 percent of those who apply are accepted. Those chosen are relocated to Cleveland.

Whether in for murder, robbery or drug dealing – only sexual crimes disqualify one from participating – applicants must have a GED or high school diploma, be within three years of release, have no current gang affiliation, and, perhaps most importantly, be committed to change.

During the five-month prison program, participants study a curriculum combining that of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship and the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac. At the same time, each inmate creates a business plan with the help of his own business plan advisor. Business executives and MBA students from around the nation attend events at the prison, where they listen to pitches and offer one-on-one advice on business plans in progress. The whole program culminates with a business plan competition, similar to the type that business schools put on. The participants give 30-minute presentations, judged by a panel of executives. The competition is followed by a formal graduation ceremony.

But the program doesn’t end there. PEP provides an array of post-release  support services, which begin upon release from prison. Because studies show that inmates are most vulnerable following the first 72 hours of release, PEP case managers escort participants to their new homes or halfway houses. PEP provides transportation to appointments and job interviews, resume advice and career counseling, and clothing for interviews, as well as job referrals, including to members of the organization’s executive network.

Parolees can participate in the organization’s eSchool – Entrepreneurship School – at University of Houston-Downtown and the University of Dallas. After four weeks, eSchool students are paired with an executive, who serves as their mentor.

Upon completing 16 classes they graduate from the program and are eligible for small business financing from the organization’s network of angel investors.

PEP graduates also have access to consultants through PEP’s network who can help them with various aspects of their business and who may on occasion offer them contracts.

From start to finish PEP is a unique program, and its statistics are impressive. PEP has graduated more than 600 participants, who have launched more than 75 businesses. About 90 percent find employment within 90 days of release, and the program has engaged more than 570 MBA volunteers from 40 programs.

For more information, visit www.prisonentrepreneurship.org.