By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Seven young men and women with big plans gathered with their families in the Catholic Center’s Cardinal Baum Room Aug. 25. It was graduation day.
They, and another young man who was unable to be there, had spent the past two and a half months learning about themselves and how to make their dreams a reality in Holy Rosary Credit Union’s Biz 101 course.
In remarks before the graduation, Carole Wight, president of Holy Rosary Credit Union, said that many well-known local businesses of today were started or expanded with assistance from the old Holy Rosary Credit Union, including Roma Bakery and Belfonte Ice Cream.
“You have the potential to improve the economic potential of Kansas City,” she told the graduates. “When we work together — we help you start your business and you work with us to manage your finances — we fly like geese in a wedge,” heading in the right direction.
Biz 101 is a 10-week program for young adults ages 17-22, with little or no higher education. Holy Rosary is a low-income designated, not-for-profit, Emerging Community Development financial institution. As such, it was able to use a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation, and a combination of the Kauffman Foundation’s First Steps FastTrac and Operation Jump Start microenterprise development programs to develop Biz 101.
The course was facilitated by Ximena Pacheco, who is licensed to teach Operation Jumpstart materials, has worked extensively with the Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneurial programs and conducts the credit union’s business and Spanish programs.
According to Rachel Barker, one of Holy Rosary Credit Union’s two Washburn University Americorps Vista Fellows, Biz 101 took two approaches to helping students develop their ideas. The course was designed so that a student learned to recognize his/her own strengths and weaknesses through different creative outlets. Participants created collages that represented their business ideas and, using shoeboxes, they designed miniature stores, Barker said. The collages and mini-stores were on display in the classroom used for the course.
The second approach involved the students actually evaluating their business ideas, on the bases of finances, community interest and how it would fit into the business spectrum locally. Throughout the course, they learned the importance and how-tos of budgeting, networking and building business relationships.
Along with Pacheco, two seasoned entrepreneurs, Jim Fredericks and Dr. Christine Oji, Ph.D., of SCORE, a non-profit mentoring organization supported by the Small Business Administration, worked with and coached the students throughout the course. At the course’s conclusion, the students were required to produce a completed feasibility plan for their business idea and plan a follow-up in three months. Barker explained that they will then decide if the initial idea is a “GO” or a “No Go;” if a “No Go,” they still have all the course materials in their hands to facilitate revising or starting anew.
Several speakers encouraged the group to be passionate and self-confident: Patricia Brown-Dixon, a regional administrator for the Small Business Administration; Dorothy Browning of the Women’s Business Center, and Mark McCaskill of Operation Jumpstart.
Each Biz 101 graduate presented their concept and evaluation of their dream business. Dreams included a video-gaming cafe; several lines of clothing; a skincare line; state of the art child care facilities; a barber shop with men’s accessories such as wallets and ties; an after-hours recreational facility that would give young people a place to hang out with friends, network and prevent violence while having fun; and a bar. The program’s graduates had begun networking with established businesses, and several were working on financing.
Wight was happy with the outcome of the first Biz 101. “We had hoped for a larger class but this was a good size and the retention level was great,” she said.
The credit union plans to offer the course again in 2013.