Gary – The Northwest ISBDC is partnering with Gary and its Economic Development Corp. as well as micro-lender Accion to offer residents business and financial guidance.
The collaboration brings together resources for Gary residents who may have the idea on a napkin but not the business plan in place, said Eric Reaves, assistant director of Gary’s Economic Development Corp.
“We wanted to change the process and work on the idea to set up an office here where we can help the citizens of Gary with great ideas,” he said. “A lot of people have great ideas but just don’t know where to start.”
Business and community leaders marked the new initiative during a recent open house at Gary City Hall as well as launched office hours to connect potential entrepreneurs to experts.
As a result of the partnership, NW-ISBDC business adviser Bill Gregory and an Accion representative will be on hand from 9 a.m. to noon the first Tuesday of the month at the annex building, 839 Broadway. Initially, individuals may walk in and appointments may be accepted in the future.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson saw the need for business-focused services through her 15 minutes with the mayor initiative.
“They had great ideas that manifested through the products that they brought … cookies, pies, all types of great things,” she said. “We understood that we did not have the capacity on our own to really help our residents bring those ideas to fruition so we knew it was necessary to partner with these wonderful organizations.”
NW-ISBDC Regional Director Lorri Feldt said the ISBDC focuses on helping entrepreneurs take that next step and “take that napkin and develop it into a real business plan and understanding of the market and hopefully help them become a successful business that lasts.”
“We worked with 370 clients in 2012 in that process with both start-up entrepreneurs and business owners who have issues that may keep them up late at night,” Feldt said. “We have a great team of advisers with significant industry experience and accomplishments. They are capable of not only understanding and communicating about business ownership but also assisting that client in taking those next steps in thinking through with eyes wide open what it means to open a business.”
Accion representatives will provide financial advice during the office hours. The organization has been making loans in Lake and Porter counties since 2008 in a range of amounts from $500 to $50,000.
“Accion works with businesses that are unable to access traditional forms of financing. Our average loan is $8,000 to almost any kind of business,” said Jonathan Brereton, Accion Chief Executive Officer. “We’re really excited to dive in here in Gary and get involved and really work with more businesses and fund more businesses in Gary.”
Carmella Saraceno of Miller Beach Market Place and Dion Thomas of Right Lane Express shared their experiences with both organizations.
Thomas has worked with NW-ISBDC business adviser Cindy Bertram as well as the Accion team to launch his business that provides two components: training to drivers and freight brokering.
“Everything fell right into place,” he said. “We are preparing to offer services here in the city to other young men who grew up in the city – who are growing up in the city – just like myself.”
Forest Hayes, director of Gary’s Department of Commerce and Economic Development Corp., applauded the collaboration’s current direction.
“Rarely does a dream come true in this business and even when it does come true, rarely does the actual event or actual product exceed what your dream was in the beginning. This is one of those times,” he said. “I never envisioned this kind of response.”
Feldt said her team is also looking forward to the partnership’s growth and development and she will assess if additional office hours are needed in the future.
For more information, contact the NW-ISBDC at (219) 644-3513, Gary Economic Development Corp. at (219) 881-1367 or Accion at (312) 275-3000.
For additional pictures from the event, visit the NW-ISBDC’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/nwisbdc.