Basic Training For Business

By Tim Mitchell
The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.


When Samantha Koon decided to launch a new restaurant in Monticello, she felt she needed good advice to help make her enterprise a success.

“We want to open a restaurant and event center that caters to families and couples in Monticello, but we are still hunting for a good location,” Koon said. “I always knew I wanted to do something a little bit entrepreneurial. My mom ran a restaurant, so I guess it is in my blood.”

Koon was one of 20 participants in Monticello’s first Bootcamp, an aggressive five-week program that teaches past, present and future entrepreneurs about the nuts and bolts of owning a business.

The program is a collaboration between the city of Monticello and Monticello Main Street.

“We bring in regional experts to discuss financials, legals, marketing, advertising, credit and lending, and so on,” said Monticello director of community development Callie Jo McFarland, “We basically touch on things that aren’t normally on the top of people’s minds when they decide to open a business.”

“The program was definitely helpful to me,” Koon said. “The unique thing about it was that it connected me to other people in Monticello who are thinking about the same things.”

McFarland said she got the idea for the Monticello Bootcamp from a similar program in Marion, Va.

“The people in Marion noticed that some of their businesses were struggling, and it was difficult for them to get interest in their downtown,” she said. “We took their program and Monticelloed it.”

The first Monticello Bootcamp was so successful that McFarland’s team is planning a second one beginning Feb. 23 in the Livingston Center, 224 E. Livingston St., Monticello.

The classes will be from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and are free to anyone interested including women in business.

“They don’t have to live, work or play in Monticello, although we won’t turn them away if they want to!” McFarland said.

She said the Bootcamp originally started as an effort to spur interest in new startup businesses in downtown Monticello.

McFarland said owning a business isn’t easy.

“We know this because if it was, everyone would do it, and we’d all be good at it,” McFarland said. “It isn’t uncommon for people to decide to open a business based upon a skill, craft or trade they are fluent in, and not realizing all that is involved with opening and running a business.”

The program teaches participants how to get people in their doors, whom to report sales tax to, and protections offered by various legal business setups.

Speakers will talk about marketing and advertising, business branding, social media, accounting, credit and lending, business law and business loans.

“We wanted to provide as many tools in the toolbox as we could to our businesses and individuals,” McFarland said.

During the program, participants will have an opportunity to present their business plans to a panel of judges — experts from the fields of creativity, finance and marketing.

The participant with the most viable business plan for their startup business in downtown Monticello will receive a $5,000 grant to pay for rent or mortgage and utilities.

She said private organizations, businesses and individuals contributed money for the grant.

Koon recommends other small business women consider taking part in the Monticello Bootcamp.

“It is a great way to learn all the steps to start up your own business,”Koon said.

Registration is necessary so organizers can get enough materials ready for the program. For registration information, go online to

“Individuals can sign up for all classes or just the ones that interest them,” McFarland said. “It’s a very informal but intense learning session. The networking alone is priceless!”

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