A unique loan program offers some Texans an opportunity to get off public assistance by starting their own businesses.
The Microenterprise Loan Development Program provides start-up capital of $500 to $3,000 to qualified applicants who are current or former recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
Funded by the Texas Workforce Commission, the program is a joint initiative of TEEX’s Economic Development Administration-University Center and the Brazos Valley Council of Governments.
To qualify for the Microenterprise Loan Development Program, participants must demonstrate that they are actively seeking employment, want to start their own businesses and are willing to learn basic business skills, said Deborah Webb, program coordinator for the EDA-University Center. The participants study topics such as identifying business opportunities and credit options, pricing and marketing, managing cash flow, record-keeping and financial statements.
One of the main goals of the six-week entrepreneurial course is to develop a business plan, including a market study and financial projections, which they can take to a lending institution, Webb said.
Fifteen people have been through the program and 11 are in various stages of starting a business, said project manager Ramona Malone. Some of the home-based businesses the participants are starting include daycare, building maintenance, catering, floral design, plumbing and sewing/tailoring.
One participant, JoAnna Perry, used her loan to start Jo’s Country Catering.
Perry had worked in food and beverage management for 25 years, before a divorce left her and her son, Benjamin, in financial straits.
“I had always wanted to start my own catering business, but I just never had the resources to do it,” she said. ” I had the knowledge, and the loan helped me buy the equipment to get started. $3,000 may not be a lot of money, but it was enough to make a turnaround in our lives. It’s really been a blessing.”
In the past two months, Perry has done 12 catering jobs and catered food at 15 fairs, festivals and trade shows.
“Things have just taken off,” she says. “It’s wonderful to know that we’re going to be okay. Now I don’t have to worry about being able to pay my bills. It has really changed my life.”
She has even begun a new project, a cookbook she hopes will go on sale this summer.