Jumpstarting Lives Thru Business
|Cade and Caleb Jones work at assembling a swather at Randy's Repair and Sales.|
This success story shows how multiple agencies working together can make a difference in a small community. And what a difference it is making. "This is a story about how a business program is changing lives. "It has given people who didn't have alternatives a new direction and an opportunity for the future," says Karl Kraync, district director for Vocational Rehabilition.
Eleven agencies collaborated back in 2001 and were able to secure a grant from the Department of Workforce Services for $865,000 to develop new jobs and businesses in four rural counties in Eastern Utah. The money has all been distributed and the program has officially ended but the results are ongoing.
For Amy Sehestedt who runs Tinker Tot Preschool, she was able to build a business and buy classroom equipment so she could be at home when her daughter is out of school and be independent at the same time.
For Scott Schollmeyer, who was injured in a construction accident in 1998, he was able to begin a vending business customizing the service to small businesses in the area.
The program is Southeastern Utah Small Business Investment Fund (SEUSBIF) and Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments was the host institution.
SEUSBIF is a collaboration of many agencies that worked together towards a common goal - to develop new jobs in southeast Utah. In the three years it existed before the funds ran out 79 new businesses were created and all but a handful are successful today. Of the 79 new businesses many were located in Carbon and Emery counties, with some in Grand and San Juan Counties. It is estimated that 192 people are working today, either full or part time because of the grants. The project has seemed to grow unnoticed because it added two or three jobs at a time to the job market, but Kraync pointed out that if we would bring in a business that employed 192 people it would be considered a major economic boom. "This is a major boom but with a quiet bang." he says.
According to Kraync, SEUSBIF was created to find alternative means to assisting low to moderate income individuals with at least one dependent child. "SEUSBIF gives them the opportunity to start a new business that will support the family," he says, explaining that this could mean self employment.
|Scott Schollmeyer is pictured filling his vending machine.|
The businesses cover a wide range of interests including preschools and daycares, restaurants and cafes, auto body shops, a guest ranch, wedding rental business and a family framing business. Besides expanding public and private partnerships there was $694,020 distributed to the clients. This money, given in increments under $10,000 was primarily used for construction, inventory, supplies and material to get the business off the ground.
Some of the businesses are having an incredible impact on the community. Janice and Percy Mounteer purchased the old Star Theater in Huntington and are throwing their lives into developing a community center, featured around movies. "This is more of a community service than it is a business," says Janice, as she explained their vision to keep expanding the theater. Besides the two movies each day the Mounteers have a game arcade, provide bingo, karaoke, snow cones, tours, parties and are working on expanding a computer area.
SEUSBIF program includes the competition of a comprehensive business planning course called NxLevel, a mandatory four-month follow-up business counseling, specialized training to offer customer service and improvement of business viability to increase for future growth and expansion.
The NxLevel business course, offered through the Small business development center, was proven to be vital to the survival of small business ventures. NxLevel is a business development course that teaches or improves business management, marketing, and financial skills through the creation of a comprehensive business plan. As important as the grant money was to get the business off the ground, provide inventory or start-up capital, its appears that the lessons learned in the NcLevel class is what's keeping the companies excited and afloat. Both Janice and Percy Mounteer of Star Theater took the class and raved about what they learned by developing a business plan in the class. "We are now working at securing an Small Business Alliance loan and we understand what we are doing because of the class," says Janice.
"The class taught me the market place," says Scott Schollmeyer, adding, "I now understand marketing, cash flow and demographics." After years of working in pizza places, a nursing home and construction, Scott actually went into the program with another business in mind, but came out of it understanding that he could create a vending business. Amy Sehestedt praised the NxLevel class, "They worked with me step by step to write a business plan, which included bookkeeping, marketing, demographics. The whole class was informative and really gave me a feel for what I was about to embark on."
Amy teaches three to five year olds, two hours a day, three days a week. Her classes are full and she is teaching the youngsters skills that will allow them to enter kindergarten at a higher academic level. She explained that she teaches the children letters, sounds, numbers, shapes and how to write their names, all tasks that many of the children cannot do until they get into kindergarten, which is often too late.
Randy's Repair and Sales is a good example of a family business. All three of their children are part of the business. Sons Cade and Caleb and daughter Cierra work as buying older equipment, restoring them, rebuilding them and then reselling them. They learn about the used equipment through the Internet and other specialty magazines, buy them and then go to work repairing them. As a family they are all able to stay busy and provide employment for each of them.
The SEUSBIF program has proven to be successful based on active involvement due to support of all partners and sponsoring agencies. "Without local community support, SEUSBIF would not be successful," says Kraync. "This program enhances the lives of many residents and provides them with the practical knowledge necessary to own and operate a successful small business while improving the rural economies."