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MINORITY BUSINESS GRAD AT TOP GAME

Young group home owner, recent grad of Watts-based Entrepreneur Educational Center weathers coronavirus pandemic, social justice issues LOS ANGELES — Caught between a global pandemic and the combustible fallout sparked by the senseless murder of George

Young group home owner, recent grad of Watts-based Entrepreneur Educational Center weathers coronavirus pandemic, social justice issues

LOS ANGELES — Caught between a global pandemic and the combustible fallout sparked by the senseless murder of George Floyd, minority small business owners are hard pressed to find a pathway to survival during these unprecedented times.

For new business owners, getting valid answers to their pressing questions is an urgent need – for instance how to apply for available stimulus package related programs? Are other resources available to help stabilize a new entrepreneur? Another quest may be revising a business plan to better serve the community during a crisis.

The Watts-based Entrepreneur Educational Center, Inc. (EECI), in conjunction with partners from the U.S. Department of Small Business Administration (SBA), Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Compton Economic Development Department, has initiated a weekly EECI COVID-19 Response teleconference call aimed at giving the Certified Alumni of its Miracle’s Young Adult & Adult Entrepreneur Program (MYAEP), answers to those questions.

Theresa L. Jones, NRI founder and CEO.

Ken Crawford, SBA-L.A. Economic Development specialist notes, “We are pleased to partner with EECI to ensure that businesses in every part of Los Angeles, including the greater Watts and Willowbrook communities have access to SBA’s programs. Every business is important to our recovery efforts and these calls will help participants meet the requirements to qualify.”

EECI grad digs in weathers the pandemic

The teleconferences also provide free technical assistance from seasoned business consultants to improve chances of sustaining the more than 20 small businesses or non-profit organizations launched by MYAEP grads in the past four years. The incubating businesses serve the underserved communities of Watts, Willowbrook, Compton, Carson, and South LA.

One business owner who has benefited from EECI programs and workshops is Theresa L. Jones, a Watts native and founder-CEO of New Reflections, Inc. (NRI), a non-profit organization that provides crisis/transitional housing, supportive services, and re-entry programs for women who may be ex-offenders, homeless, (with or without children) divorced or victims of  domestic violence.

Jones, who earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology, began her relationship with EECI after establishing NRI in 2013. NRI has grown significantly in seven years.

Group home for women owned by Theresa L. Jones, Watts native and founder-CEO of New Reflections, Inc., has been hard-pressed to endure the challenges of running a facility designed to aid challenged women  in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We now have over 80 plus beds combined [between] our two facilities both [serving] the Greater Los Angeles area,” Jones said. “With the help and support of our staff and volunteers, women and their children are able to find stability in a safe, nonjudgmental environment, and a place to learn and grow while working towards transitioning to permanent housing.”

While NRI is open 365 days a year, COVID-19 has forced the organization, like small businesses across the country, to make major adjustments and seek stopgap support from the government and private sector.

“The agency had to adjust meal services because both adults and children were at the facility 24 hours every day,” Jones said. “The parents and children are typically at school and at work during this time, but they could not leave the facility [and] we had to provide additional meals for shelter participants.

Jones explained that NRI had to cancel onsite tutoring. “That required setting up of chrome books and additional Wi-Fi to ensure that the children were able to access their zoom classes online.” she said, adding, that while many small business owners are still having problems, good fortune fell on the side of NRI, and she learned valuable lessons about accessing emergency funds during difficult periods. “We received some of the additional funding that was offered by the SBA, foundations, corporations, and other private donors allowing us to pay staff and continue to provide services to homeless families hit harder by the pandemic than any other population,” Jones noted.

As far as lessons learned Jones added this tip on one of EECI’S COVID-19 Response Teleconference calls. “One of the reasons we were able to get the funding from the SBA and other organizations was because we made some organizational adjustments and had the payroll forms that were required and some other organizational factors in place. Having proper components in place on the fiscal side will bring about a level viability for your business.”

Plans to enroll students for summer 2020 classes

EECI Executive Director Barbara J. Stanton said in addition to hosting its weekly COVID19 Response calls, EECI is putting together post coronavirus stay-at-home plans to continue its partnership with Los Angeles County “Parks After Dark” initiative.

“We are looking forward to identifying and certifying young and adult entrepreneurs through our free MYAEP classes,” Stanton said. “Once we are given clearance, we will enroll students for summer 2020 classes to be held at the Ted Watkins Park Computer Center.

“COVID-19 might dictate that we make some adjustments but EECI is planning an extravaganza to reopen the Watts community and surrounding areas with positive business programs featuring products sold by EECI and MYAEP alumni, with full social distancing and “free masks for all attendees,” Stanton said. “Visit our website at www.entrepreneureducationalcenter.org for updates. We are all about building a better community, one small business at a time.”

For more information contact Barbara J. Stanton, executive director at (323) 757-7506, eeci2017@aol.com or Ralph D. Sutton at (213) 361-3790, ralphdsutton@earthlink.net

Benefactors for EECI- MYAEO COVID-19 Response Teleconference Series

Sponsored and supported by U.S. Small Business Association, LA Economic Development Corp., LA County, City of Compton, Economic Development Department, Pacific Coast Regional, Black Business Association, Union Bank, Union Bank MUFG, Comerica Bank, Pacific Premier Bank, Pacific Western Bank, First Choice Bank, Cathay Bank, Farmers & Merchants Bank, American Business Bank, and the Thomas and Dorothy Leavy Foundation.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.

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