The Hawk Eye (Iowa)
By: Nicholas Bergin
December 9, 2010
A year ago, Greg and Holly Stevenson of Burlington struggled to make ends meet. To supplement their incomes, they trolled Burlington's back alleys looking for discarded metal to turn in for scrap.
But now, thanks to Community Action of Southeast Iowa's program BizStart, they have a dream. They call it DREAM E-Covery LLC.
Short for Demanufacturing Responsibly Electronics American Motivated, DREAM E-Covery is a small business dedicated to recycling anything with a power cord.
The Stevensons are among a group of about 14 people who in the past year have enrolled in BizStart, a program that helps low- to moderate-income business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs create strong businesses.
"I can't emphasise how great this program has been," Greg Stevenson said recently. "It has brought us along into something we would have never had without this program."
But funding for the program runs out in April. Officials with community action are seeking new funds for BizStart to allow the program to continue providing area residents with the tools they need to succeed in small business.
Community Action is casting a wide net in seeking funds and plans to apply for grants, as well as request donations or in-kind support from a variety of sources, such as area foundations, the Iowa Legislature, and boards of supervisors in Des Moines, Lee, Henry and Louisa counties, said community action Director Sharon Ford.
The original funding for the program was set up to last only a year and consisted of a $45,000 grant from the Northwest Area Foundation through the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation. Community Action is providing $9,853 of in-kind services bringing the total project cost of $54,853.
"The purpose of our program is to help people start businesses that also will help transform lives, strengthen families and create vibrant stable communities," said Ben Diewold, the microenterprise coordinator for Community Action.
The program is rebuilding the local economy from the ground up. Other potential business plans to have come out of the class include a pet hotel, a food store for diabetics, a mobile chiropractic clinic, an ice cream and sandwich shop and a drive-through rib shack, Diewold said.
"What better way to lift someone out of poverty and help them to self-sufficiency than to show them how to run a business. And help them with the steps to actually takes to open that business," Diewold said.
The program, which is open to people from Des Moines, Henry, Lee and Louisa counties, takes participants through all the steps necessary for creating a business, including personal credit, startup costs, overhead costs, sales units, break even points, profit and sales goals, cash flow, target markets and market research, Diewold said.
Community Action has hosted two eight week BizStart classes, one each in Burlington and Fort Madison, and plans to host one more class in Mount Pleasant before current funding runs out.
The final class will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday for eight weeks from Feb. 1 through March 22.
The classes will be held at Iowa Wesleyan College, which is cosponsoring the sessions.
Prior to taking the course, applicants must attend one of several upcoming free orientation workshops, which will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Jan. 6, 13, 18 and 20; and from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 22. All the orientation workshops will be held at the Tolson Center, 1303 W. Washington St., Mount Pleasant.
To become part of the BizStart program, prospective entrepreneurs must have an existing business or business idea, fall into the income guidelines and have $79 for the eight-session curriculum.
To qualify, a single-person household must have an income of $32,490 or less to register for BizStart. The amount rises with each additional household member, for example, a six-person household's income must not exceed $88,590.
Other cosponsors of the BizStart program include, Iowa Small Business Development Centers, F&M Bank & Trust, the Mount Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, the Greater Burlington Partnership and the Lee County Economic Development Group.
To register or get more information about the program, call (866) 251-7480.