30 Small-Biz Dreamers Get Started

Markeshia Ricks PhotoIssac Newton Kinity has a doctorate in counseling and psychology. He works by day repairing airplane engines. But what he really wants to do is start a business serving food from his home continent of Africa.

“I, myself, am quite fond of African food,” Kinity (pictured), who is from Kenya, said. “I want to introduce Americans to these foods.”

Kinity joined more than 30 people at the city’s new Small Business Academy on Dixwell Avenue with hopes that a three-month course will help him take his restaurant from idea to reality.

The academy kicked off its first two orientations this past week for aspiring and current small business owners in the city.

“We take the academy part of this seriously,” Jackie James (pictured), director of the city’s Small Business Services Center, said at the orientation. “Treat this like school. You will have homework. Get here early and don’t miss class. If you do, we might have to ask you to leave the program.”

“I have people still calling me to get into the academy,” she noted.

With an unemployment rate, particularly among black and hispanic New Haveners, that has been described by city officials and job advocates as crisis level, the Harp administration has been dedicating some of the city’s small resources and leveraging its ties to the business community to help local people start their own businesses. The state Department of Labor puts the city’s unemployment rate at 7.7 percent, but for blacks and latinos the unemployment rate is 18 percent and 20.7 percent, respectively.

Natalie Oliver (pictured) started Hats By Natalie, F. & A. (fabulous and affordable) three years ago. Oliver started her business after she was laid off from AT&T. That first year, she stayed close to home and worked around her house and yard. But by the second year, she said her doctor told her, “You’re young, you’ve got to interact with people.”

“I like to wear hats,” she said. “I thought that would be a nice business to get into.” She admitted hats “are not an easy commodity to sell,” but “if you find a woman who loves hats, you have a customer.” Over the last three years, she’s learned that she has to have something else to offer the woman who doesn’t wear hats.

Oliver said she wanted to participate in the academy to learn how to grow her business. Monday night there was almost an even split between people who were looking to start a business and those looking to take their existing business to new heights.

James Hall and Reorn Jones (pictured left and right) were among those hoping the academy will help them expand. They’re the owners of Sparklez Cleaning LLC., a residential and commercial cleaning, and landscaping business. They’ve been in business only 60 days, but they want to learn about how to bid for contracts and bigger jobs, which they hope will translate into being able to hire more people.

At the Dixwell academy and the downtown small-business office, the city is showing people how to write a business plan and putting them in direct contact with sources for funding. And it’s doing that without charging people who use the services, including the courses being offered through the academy.

James said the academy has something for start-ups, existing businesses and people who want a business, but don’t even know what kind of business to start. She said each person who completes the course will walk away with a business plan, the skills to run a financially sound business, and access to funding.

A lucky few will get to start their business in the academy’s incubator. The academy has 19 spaces that entrepreneurs can use as their office space, as well as an administrative assistant. They also can use the academy’s address as their business address, hold business meetings in the academy’s conference rooms and have access to basic office supplies for $25 a week. The fee goes toward replenishing basic supplies for the incubator like printing paper.

“So often I’ve seen people go through programs and leave with nothing,” James told attendees. “You will leave here with something.” Those who successfully finish the course will have a graduation in September.

But first they’ll work with people like city small business development officer Clay Williams (pictured in the blue shirt), who started and ran a commercial cleaning business while working in the banking industry. He wasted no time Monday night letting people know how difficult it is to be their own boss.

Other academy instructors include: Joseph Williams, Small Business Development Center; Orlando Marquez, First Niagara; James Ponder Jr., Ponder Financial Services; Denis Brown; Springboard Consulting; Jobana Maldonado, Spanish American Merchants Association; Larcina Carrington Wynn, Carrington Financial Serivces, Stephen Bellis, New Haven Bar Association; Beth Wallace, Connecticut Economic Resource Center; Seth Godfrey, New Haven Public Library; Pat Sanders, SCORE; and Kim Hawkins, HEDCO Inc.

“It’s hard work and it has its rewards, but if you want to start a business because you want to get eight hours of sleep every night, don’t start a business,” said Williams, who told attendees how he worked his corporate bank job by day and operated his cleaning business by night. “If you want to start a business because you want two weeks vacation every year, don’t go into business.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 15, 2015  3:26pm

There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a Democratic Socialism.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
November 14, 1966

posted by: FacChec on June 15, 2015  5:58pm

While it is important to provide people with the knowledge to develop a business plan, at the same time it is cruel to lead people to believe that a business plan and a $25 per/mo space will lead to into a business of their dreams.

Start up Business’s about a personal dream is rarely successful, the Academy and Ms. James will have to incorporate a business survey to ensure that a given business is not a duplication of others in the area, coupled with census data of the city and metropolitan area which shows income spending habits and other important demographic statistics of the buyers in that same Metro area. In addition, the Academy and Ms James should add the state DECD and state Dept of Administrative services as a component:

Finally, the academy and Ms. James must ensure that the small business initiative is funded with enough funds for grants and loans that will help carry a new business through the first two difficult years.

Without these important components in place the business start up academy is doomed to failure, and James, not Harp, will be the fall person.

posted by: Marion on June 16, 2015  9:16am

@Threefifths:  Socialism is shared misery, imposed and controlled by a bureaucracy that is inevitably corrupt, and which stifles enterprise, ingenuity, innovation, and progress, guaranteeing a government-dependent society of loafers and parasites.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 16, 2015  1:03pm

posted by: SwampfoxII on June 16, 2015 9:16am

@Threefifths:  Socialism is shared misery, imposed and controlled by a bureaucracy that is inevitably corrupt, and which stifles enterprise, ingenuity, innovation, and progress, guaranteeing a government-dependent society of loafers and parasites.

Capitalism lets the rich overrule the poor. Even the middle class gets stepped on.Look at the socialist democratic countries,The people have more opportunity than any other country. Last Capitalism benefits the the strong and exploits the weak.The rich and the wealthy build up and monopolise the market for themselves while the average workers income becomes less and less.These corporate businesses pay off and lobby politicians to pass laws in their favour.

posted by: Bradley on June 16, 2015  10:43pm

For the city’s unemployment rate to be 7.7%, as stated in the article, given the unemployment rates cited for blacks and Hispanics, the unemployment rate for non-Hispanic whites would have to be a negative number. Perhaps the author meant that non-Hispanic whites have an unemployment rate of 7.7%.