Community Loan Fund revamps community business planning course

When Nishaya Richardson enrolled in a community business course, she didn’t have a comprehensive plan and was still using her personal bank account for business expenses.

After completing the course, her business was a registered LLC with a clear vision for the future, expanding from offering only one-on-one financial coaching to organizing group seminars and assisting businesses in offering employee financial programs.

To continue to inspire the growth of small businesses like Richardson’s, the Capital Region Community Loan Fund (CLF) has redesigned its business planning course, providing more interaction and mentorship to provide Capital Region entrepreneurs with the core concepts and planning tools to succeed in a post-Covid economy.

“It empowered me to do whatever I needed to do in the beginning and not try to put it off because it seems difficult,” said Richardson, owner of Shesthebudgetguru, a financial literacy coaching service.

The nine-week business course is offered virtually via Zoom and will take place on Saturdays from September 17 to November 12 from 9am to noon. Tuition for the course is $275 and includes access to the fund’s Eduprenuer platform, which offers adaptive online learning courses in partnership with JPMorgan Chase.

Participants also receive downloadable course materials such as links to video tutorials, brochures and slides to use at any time in the future, adapting to the different pace of small business development.

The class consists of nine consecutive three-hour sessions covering topics including business planning, legal incorporation, intellectual property, commercial real estate, market research, website development, cash flow forecasting and financial management.

Richardson said the sessions she valued most were those focused on business structure, such as exploring the differences between an LLC and an S corporation, as well as lessons on how to secure financing.

“I wanted to make sure everything was set up right as far as my business plan and my records and everything that I needed so that I would be successful and not be trying to catch up years down the line when I could have do right in the beginning,” she said.

In addition to CLF staff, local business experts—from bankers and brokers to alumni and successful entrepreneurs—will also present the virtual sessions. Participants can expect to take part in a variety of exercises, such as attending one-on-one mentoring sessions and building a business plan in class demonstrations.

“The course aims to take people through the different aspects of owning and running a business, focusing more on the different logistics they need to be successful,” said Destiny Watkins, CLF Training and Technical Assistance Manager.

Watkins emphasized that another key concept the course will address is social media strategy, an invaluable tool that has become even more critical to marketing due to the pandemic.

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