Class Helps Entrepreneurs Start Businesses

By Gary Pinnell Highlands Today, Sebring, Fla.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to the executive director of the new IMBIZ entrepreneurship program in Florida, "this school is for people who know nothing about starting a business." So if you have an interest in female business ownership but have no idea how to get started, this may be a nice place to begin.

AVON PARK

Jackie Turner wants to start a business based on a line of cards.

"Designed to share ways to help us get over things that hurt us," said Turner, of Winter Haven.

So Turner enrolled in IMBIZ, a six-week seminar.

"It is a business development center a group of volunteers are starting up in Avon Park," said Penny Phillippi, board president. "It is basically a business incubator without walls. We piloted this program for three years when I ran the community redevelopment agency down in Collier County."

Phillippi, executive director Deb Hearin and trainer Toni Salvaggio started the first entrepreneur class in Avon Park on Jan. 9.

"This school is for people who know nothing about starting a business," Phillippi said. "We started with eight students." After week four, five serious students remained. Three received certificates on Saturday; two were no-shows for their final examination.

"If all goes well, we will have assisted with the development of five brand-new small businesses in Highlands County. No small thing," Phillippi said. "The beauty of this program is that we will continue to work with these students through the development of a business plan and for up to one year after the business begins operations."

Geneva Hayes of Avon Park wants to sell 100 hair-care products to people of color. Originally, she thought her company would be a non-profit. After six weeks, she's leaning toward a for-profit.

"It's natural and organic," Hayes said. "It manages hair and heals the scalp from the chemicals you are putting into your hair. It also helps you grow hair."

Pamela Floyd of Lake Placid offers energy healing. "I ask your body to tune into energy fields, and correct imbalances." IMBIZ, Floyd said, "really helped me to build confidence. It told me how to take the next step."

She learned about legal issues, and she has decided to hire an accountant and an attorney.

"It's important to have a support system," Floyd said. "And accountability. It's an important factor in being successful." The next free class will start March 3, Phillippi said, at the North Central Heights Community Center on Central Avenue, north of Avon Park.

Businesspeople can also write the business plan they always intended to have, and refine ideas for expanding a business.

Phillippi said IMBIZ is looking for financial sponsors and mentors -- accountants, grant writers, lawyers, bankers -- who want to teach for an hour or two.

More info: 863-657-2044

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