Business Planning

Community Loan Fund revamps community Business Planning Course

When Nishaea Richardson signed up for a community business course, she lacked a comprehensive plan and was still using her personal bank account for business expenses.

At the completion of 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 workshops and assisting businesses in offering financial programs for employees.

To continue inspiring growth in small businesses like Richardson’s, the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region (CLF) has revamped its Business Planning Course, providing more interaction and mentorship to equip entrepreneurs across the Capital Region with the fundamental planning concepts and tools to succeed in a post-COVID economy.

“It empowered me as far as doing everything I should have done in the beginning and not trying to push it away because it seems difficult,” said Richardson, owner of Shesthebudgetguru, a financial literacy coaching service.

The nine-week business course is offered virtually through Zoom and will run on Saturdays Sept. 17 to Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to noon. Tuition for the course is $275 and includes access to the fund’s “Eduprenuer” platform which offers customizable online training courses in partnership with JPMorgan Chase.

Participants also receive downloadable class materials such as links to video lessons, handouts and slide decks to be used at any time in the future, accommodating the small businesses’ different paces of development.

The class is made up of nine sequential three-hour sessions covering topics including business planning, legal formation, intellectual property, commercial real estate, market research, website development, cash flow projections and financial management.

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

“I wanted to make sure I had everything set up properly as far as my business plan and my records and everything I needed so I am successful and not trying to play catch up years from now when I could have done it correctly in the beginning,” she said.

In addition to CLF staff, local business experts – from bankers and brokers to past students 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 mentorship meetings and building a business plan in class demonstrations.

“The course is meant to walk people through the different aspects of owning and operating a business, so focusing more on the different logistics that they need in order to be successful,” said Destiny Watkins, CLF manager of training and technical assistance.

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

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