Urban League starts business center for minorities

BUSINESS SPRINGBOARDSpringBoard is the first course that the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga is offering through its Entrepreneurship Center. The class is the first of several the center plans to offer quarterly. Cost is $135. For applications go online to www.ulchatt.net or call the Urban League at 756-1762 ext. 14.

The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga is opening its Entrepreneurship Center to develop more minority-owned businesses.

"We're looking to grow the minority enterprise base from the standpoint of existing firms as well as new business enterprises," said Urban League CEO and President Warren Logan. "We're also looking to develop an arm that will develop access to capital."

SpringBoard, the first business development course offered by the Entrepreneurship Center, starts Oct. 25. The class that will be taught by attorneys, professional marketers and business people is planned to be the first of many that the Urban League wants to offer to assist minorities.

The center opens as the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce, also a minority business promoter, has lost funding. The city and county government cut their annual $75,000 allocations this year after the group came under financial scrutiny.

Membership fees and corporate donations fell.

The group has moved out of its offices on Chestnut Street and is reorganizing with a volunteer staff.

How to write business plan

Logan said the Entrepreneurship Center was in the making even before the Multicultural Chamber came under fire this summer, but the center opening in Chattanooga still will be the first in Tennessee.

If it is successful, Logan said, he will duplicate the model in other cities.

Urban League Chief Operating Officer James McKissic said he participated in a SpringBoard class offered through CreateHere and has seen its benefits.

He said the program teaches participants how to write a business plan, see marketing opportunities and establish a legal structure.

"SpringBoard gave me an understanding of how to operate a business and what it would take to be successful," McKissic said. "I'd love to see people take SpringBoard at the Urban League and become economically self-sufficient and be able to employ other people so that we're building Chattanooga's economy.

Government aid?

Logan said he also will seek funding from the city and county government, as well as other sources, and doesn't expect the Multicultural Chamber's problems to affect the possibility of funding for the Entrepreneurship Center.

Logan said there are about 1,200 registered minority-owned businesses in the Chattanooga area. But backers of the SpringBoard program said minority-owned firms need to diversify beyond their base in the service or retail sectors of the economy.

Tennessee Multicultural Chamber board member John Taylor said the Enterprise Center is another needed avenue people can use to get into business.

"We need as much help as we can get for the business community to push and make things happen," Taylor said.

Weekly class

The Urban League started receiving applications for the SpringBoard class last week. The fee is $135 per person and the class will include up to 15 students. It will meet once a week for eight weeks.

Attorneys will teach the legalities of starting a business.

Professional marketers will teach marketing. The center also is recruiting experienced business owners to serve as mentors to upcoming and new entrepreneurs and to give one-on-one technical assistance.

"We need to ... make sure that as far as the opportunity is available for free enterprise, that people of color are stepping up to the plate to participate so that we can have the type of businesses that can employ people, that can generate income back into the community," Logan said.

The center wants to offer new classes quarterly. It also seeks to disseminate information to minorities about business opportunities and products needed in the community.

"We want to level out the playing field a little bit," Logan said.