published Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Startup success: Entrepreneur Center helps turn ideas into businesses

Louise and Tim Mulderink package meals as they operate The Chef and his Wife, a personal chef business, from their home in East Brainerd.
Louise and Tim Mulderink package meals as they operate The Chef and his Wife, a personal chef business, from their home in East Brainerd.
Photo by John Rawlston.

UPCOMING EVENTS

"Where's the Money?" Workshop

Goal: To help small business owners identify potential sources of funding.

Price: Free.

When: March 25, 10 a.m. to noon.

Where: The INCubator, 100 Cherokee Blvd.

Entrepreneur Power Luncheon

Goal: To offer business tips for financial success.

Keynote speaker: Daymond John, star of ABC's "Shark Tank."

Price: $50

When: March 26, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: The Chattanoogan, 1201 Broad St.

Tim Muldernick launched his personal chef business in 2010 to pay the bills during a four-month spell of unemployment.

He was hired soon afterward as the executive chef at Volkswagen, but continued his business on the side until four months ago. Then he quit the Volkswagen job -- where he was feeding 2,800 people a day -- to run The Chef and his Wife full time.

Muldernick, a certified executive chef, cooks around 350 meals a week, freezes them in two-portion packages, then delivers them across the Chattanooga region. He puts out a menu on Sunday, takes orders through Wednesday and delivers on Saturday.

The idea works. But taking an idea from a hobby to a full-fledged business is no simple task.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, less than half of all businesses started survive for more than five years.

To help improve those odds, Muldernick enrolled in an eight-week course sponsored by the Entrepreneur Center at the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga to get a handle on all the nitty-gritty details that accompany running a business.

He learned about licensing, corporations and LLCs, about overhead, unit sales points and startup costs. He completed the course last week.

"It gave me confidence and it gave our business credibility," he said. "Now, we're talking to investors, we've got two people very interested. And that's given us the opportunity to look for a location and go into Eastgate."

Muldernick is one of about 120 people who will complete the course by the end of the fiscal year, Urban League President and CEO Warren Logan said.

"It familiarizes people with the various sundry components of running a business," he said. "A lot of people come to us as startups, and we say, 'If you're really serious, you need to invest some time and figure out what business is all about. So that at the end of the eight weeks, if you're still interested, then we can take the next steps.'"

Participants ultimately walk out of the class with a completed business plan, program director Nicole Burney said.

The Entrepreneur Center's services go beyond the eight-week course, she added. The goal of the center is to be a one-stop shop for minority- and women-owned businesses and increase the number of livable-wage jobs in the city. The center offers training workshops, consulting and guidance that are tailored for each business owner's needs.

Azusa Dance, who co-founded catering and event planning company TBW Enterprizes with Wendy Bennett-Wolfe, completed the Entrepreneur Center's course and said creating a business plan helped her to plan for the future.

"The actual work, we have down pat," she said. "That was no big deal because we'd done it for 18 years. But the insurance, business plan, inventory -- that really helped."

The Entrepreneur Center urges business owners to take a hard look at the risks of owning a small business, Logan said.

"We basically ask people to calculate the risk so they know exactly what's at risk," he said. "It's not for everyone."

The center's next event is a free workshop at the INCubator on March 25. The workshop will help small business owners identify potential sources of funding, and is open to anybody.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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