Entrepreneur Fund focus sessions lead small business owners toward successGroup sharing may not seem relevant to starting or maintaining a small business. But Marcy Kernez, owner of Eagles Nest Massage Therapy, disagrees.
By: Thomas Vaughn, Duluth Budgeteer News
Group sharing may not seem relevant to starting or maintaining a small business. Marcy Kernez, owner of Eagles Nest Massage Therapy, disagrees.
“I’ve always maintained that there should be a support group for business owners,” said Kernez when discussing her participation in Entrepreneur Fund learning sessions. “By going through my business practices with other business owners, I was able to round out my knowledge. That helped me feel stronger in my skills as a business owner.”
Kernez is one of many business owners who have benefited from the sessions offered by the Entrepreneur Fund organization, a group with offices on Superior Street in Duluth. The organization assists emerging entrepreneurs with financing and strategic planning as well.
In October, the Entrepreneur Fund will host its Growing Neighborhood Businesses program, a series of eight learning sessions to take place over a 6-month period. These sessions are for business owners operating in Lincoln Park, West Duluth, Morgan Park, Central Hillside, and East Hillside.
Jim Stukel has owned Tortoise and Hare Footwear for 12 years. Stukel found that his course experience helped him clarify who his market is and led him to streamline his inventory for profit growth.
“No matter what it looks like on the outside, everybody’s got something happening on the inside that’s a struggle or a difficulty,” he said. “To get to know and trust a group and get facilitated well was great for sharing thoughts. I didn’t have to defend anything. The classes are geared toward helping you through some business problems, and revving you up for creating more business.”
Jeff Schmidt, owner of Lizzards Art Gallery and Framing Shop since 2003, completed his courses around March 2011.
“The courses helped me focus and realize, ‘I can’t do everything here myself,’ ” he said. “That was one thing I needed help with. I needed to delegate and hire.”
Participants also get personal guidance, support and training from an Entrepreneur Fund business developer. Schmidt worked with a developer to
examine his cash flow.
“I figured out that the framing business was where I should focus my attention, and nurture and grow that because it had better profit margins and has more potential for growth,” Schmidt said.
The Entrepreneur Fund sponsors and facilitates the classes but receives funding from the Duluth at Work Initiative, the city of Duluth and Duluth LISC.
“The biggest thing that we do is help small business owners really articulate what their business vision is,” said Shawn Wellnitz, executive director of the Entrepreneur Fund. “Then the light goes on, and people really start to accelerate and take off. That really has an impact in both their business and personal lives. Stress gets reduced, they get accomplishments under their belt, and they gain confidence. It’s people doing what they want to do and making a good living at it. That’s exciting.”
Entrepreneurs are selected by an application process. Businesses must have been in operation for at least two years and not be home-based. Entrepreneurs must be committed to growing their business by 25 percent over a 24-month period.
Applications are now being accepted for the Growing Neighborhood Businesses program. For further information, contact Michael Lattery at (218) 623-5734 or at email@example.com. To learn more about the Entrepreneur Fund, consult www.entrepreneurfund.org.