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Registration now open for 6-week Goodwill MicroEnterprise Small Business Class

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Jul 15, 2021

Individuals who are interested in starting their own business can apply up for a six-week program administered through the nonprofit, Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida.

The next Goodwill MicroEnterprise Small Business Class will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday and Thursday, Aug. 16 through Sept. 23, at 815 Nicholas Pkwy. E. in Cape Coral. It is $80 for the session and volunteer hours can be substituted in lieu of the fee if income requirements are met.

“This program really helped me look at not only the big picture, but also the important components that may be overlooked, or hard to understand. There is tons of valuable information,” Allie Dehen, recent grad, and owner of Barley and Company Candles, said in a prepared statement.

Goodwill MicroEnterprise Institute & Community Education Program Coordinator Dorothy Browning said individuals should register by Aug. 12.

“An application and phone interview is required prior to acceptance and attendance is capped to create a quality experience for the participants,” she said.

For more details, individuals can contact Browning at (239) 822-0828, or visit www.goodwillswfl.org/microenterprise.

The six week course uses a workbook that was originally created by the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, whose mission is about entrepreneurship and helping people put a basic start in place. Browning said in addition they bring in a variety of subject matter experts such as lawyers, accountants, social media experts, marketing experts, business insurance and banking to provide information and answer questions.

“The secret sauce of the class, however, are the business coaches,” Browning said. “These are individuals who have either been business owners, or have worked in a significant support capacity with small businesses. They break out with a small group of participants for part of the session to help their group apply the information being presented to their business idea. They review the plan as it is being built and give feedback that helps strengthen the plans. Class participants are also tremendously supportive of each other, so they leave with a network of people all on the same road they are on.”

There is also a facilitator who manages the class and presents additional information regarding the class topics.

“One of our staff is always in attendance as well as we can provide additional help outside of class if someone needs more assistance with their plans,” Browning said. “Our goal is to help people make a good, informed decision regarding should they start a business.”

The decisions includes thinking of the impact the business will have on the owners personal life, as well as if the idea is a great decision, or just spending money on something they ultimately do not want.

“We see some of these people come back with another idea down the road that does work for them,” Browning said. “If people do decide to start, then they have a plan to guide their start up.”

The class also provides ongoing resources that can assist them, specifically SCORE and SBDC at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Browning said during the Great Recession in 2009 a group of Lee County leaders wanted a way to support individuals who wanted to start very small businesses since jobs were hard to come by.

“They researched MicroEnterprise organizations and thought that was a viable model to accomplish that,” she said. “From there they looked at local resources who had the capacity to tackle that type of endeavor and who already dealt with individuals who were surviving on limited budgets.”

With part of Goodwill’s mission already assisting those who had lost their jobs and were looking for new ways to support themselves and their families, Goodwill seemed to be a good fit.

“Goodwill agreed to take on the project event though it was not a ‘normal’ program for a Goodwill to handle,” Browning said.

The first two years the program was held mainly in Lee County and then expanded with support from the City of Cape Coral to include classes beginning in 2013. There are also classes held in Charlotte and Collier Counties.

Since 2010 there have been a total of 98 classes across the area with more than 1,300 enrolled and 903 graduates. There have been 23 classes completed in Cape Coral.

“We can track 466 businesses that started. We don’t have the resources to track them all down each year, but we do survey the last three years of participants and find a survival rate of around 60 percent,” Browning said, adding that the last survey was done at the end of 2020. “We have a lot of grads, but their businesses are on ‘hold,’ so the survey was a little skewed.”