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Growing a Business Through Collaborative Funding:
Christopher Williams owns Zydeco Janitorial Services Services. Christopher
started this business with funding from Project Exceed, a U.S. Department
of Labor Customized Employment Project, the Department of Vocational
Rehabilitation (VR) services, and the Cobb Micro Enterprise Center in
Cobb County, Georgia. Chris found Project Exceed through a referral
from his VR counselor who recognized in Chris the entrepreneurial spirit
that motivated him to run such a successful business today.
Chris’s first step was to enroll in the 12 week business plan development
course at Cobb micro enterprise center. While this step should not be
a prerequisite for folks starting businesses, it made sense in Chris’ case.
Chris continues to access the expertise of Cobb Micro Enterprise Center’s
consultants. For example, he has, with the support of their marketing
consultant, developed marketing materials for his business, including
a brochure and business cards. The lawyer on staff at this organization
supported Chris in developing a contract to use with his customers. Because
Chris’ developmental disability impacts his learning, specifically
reading and writing, Chris approached the class through a supported education
model in which his customized employment broker attended the class with
him and provided additional support that Chris needed. Now, a year after
Chris’ graduation he continues to attend monthly alumni meetings
to network with entrepreneurs from all over the metro Atlanta area
who have graduated from this training over the past 5 years of its existence.
Before Chris found the grant
he worked at wage jobs for the most part in janitorial positions. He
attended a high school special education program
and through the school system’s transition to work services, Christopher
worked in summer programs through the adult rehabilitation program
at Tommy Nobis Center. Chris worked after graduation at the Air Force
Base and in a retail setting in janitorial services.
Today, in running his own business, Chris negotiates contracts with customers,
performs the work, orders maintenance supplies and equipment, and transports
himself to each job site. Chris hired an accountant to keep his books
and occasionally hires family members to assist with large contracts.
Recently Chris has considered purchasing a franchise. Owning a franchise
might allow him access to customer referrals and lessen the negotiation
responsibilities in daily business operations. Chris has access under
the Customized Employment Project to an Individual Training Account or
ITA that would fund this franchise and relieve him of the negotiation
and bidding work he cares little for.
Being a business owner allows
Chris to connect socially and professionally with various people in
his community. Chris visits the local One Stop
Center regularly, where he gets rehabilitation assistance, and where
he has created for himself a mentor relationship with a staff person
owns a small cleaning business in her spare time. This mentor has
been a resource for Chris as he’s made decisions about what equipment
to purchase and where to go to negotiate potential contracts.
Through his ITA funded by PROJECT EXCEED (a collaboration of the
Cobb Community Services Board, CobbWorks! One-Stop, Cobb Micro Enterprise
Center, and the Tommy Nobis Center, Inc. made possible by the United
States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability-Employment Policy
Grant # E-9-4-1-0080) Chris purchased a carpet cleaner, a floor buffer,
vacuum and many cleaning supplies, as well as marketing materials
and other professional services. At this time Chris is working closely
his vocational rehabilitation counselor as they review his business
plan for funding. He is hopeful that they will invest in his current success
and help him expand his business.
Produced in collaboration with Bridges Cobb/Douglas Community Services
Board of Georgia and Griffin-Hammis Associates, LLC (www.griffinhammis.com).
The processes and techniques used to assist Chris were developed in-whole
or in-part with the Rural Institute at the University of Montana.