Being unemployed shouldn't leave you up in the air

Friday, June 25, 2010


“Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it.”

In the movie, “Up in the Air,” George Clooney’s character delivers these lines to a string of workers as he lays them off. The words are an attempt to soften the blow. His point, that people who succeed usually have suffered some setbacks, may not offer that intended glimmer of hope. But, FastTrac NewVenture: Starting a Business Workshop will do that and more.

Offered by the Center for Continuing Studies in collaboration with the Central Minnesota Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and area Minnesota Workforce Centers, the workshop is for dislocated workers who are considering self-employment and entrepreneurs who might not have the necessary skills or expertise to get their business ideas off the ground.

“In the past 10 months we have run three workshops,” said Tammy Anhalt-Warner, assistant director of training at the Center for Continuing Studies. The fourth was held May 3 − June 10, just as Outlook was going to print. According to Anhalt-Warner, 65−80 percent of all business startups fail within the first five years of business. However, 80 percent of SBDC long-term business clients are still in business after five years.

“One-hundred percent of the 30 participants completed the course and 77 percent of them are in business or in the process of setting up their business,” added Anhalt-Warner. The program is made possible by a ProjectGate (Growing America Through Entrepreneurship) Phase II grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Dislocated Worker Program.

Sandi Bernard, a graduate of the workshop, owns and operates You Have It Maid, a professional cleaning company. The Richmond resident soon realized after starting her business that she needed help and enrolled in the class for guidance.

“This workshop gave me the opportunity to learn the things that I might have missed,” said Bernard. She started her business in 2007 when, after 23 years, her position as a social worker was eliminated.

“I just jumped into business ownership,” she said. “The workshop helped me understand financial statements and that cash flow is a process. Before, if I had a balance in my checkbook I thought I was fine.”

Though losing her job after 23 years was a personal jolt, Bernard is a positive individual and said that when the social work position was gone she had to rely on herself and figure out what to do. “My heart led me in a different direction. I can’t tell you why I chose the cleaning business, but I did and it kept rolling form there. It was about starting something on my own.”

Bernard is part of a cadre of FastTrac graduates who continue to regularly meet and discuss ideas about their businesses. “It is great to have a support group of people who are in the same situation. One of the most rewarding experiences of this group has been the relationships I have established.”

Juli Popp, a fellow workshop graduate of Bernard’s, is owner of Precise Book Works, a company that helps train and consults small businesses on the use of Quickbooks. A Sauk Rapids resident, Popp recently taught a Quickbooks class at the SBDC and is working with Anhalt-Warner to set up even more classes.

“It is a one-day Quickbook seminar teaching the basics to beginners,” said Popp who thinks that setting the groundwork for self-employment is crucial. “You have to get a whole different mindset; you have to start thinking as a business owner instead of an employee.”

For more information about FastTrac, along with other courses offered through the Center for Continuing Studies go to SCSUTraining.com.

- Mike Doyle '07

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