Several graduate from Small Business Jump Start program

Several local entrepreneurs graduated from the Small Business Jump Start program. Shown with the class instructor Gary Svetz (back left) are (front, from left): Ashley Sheffer, Hanna Gamble, Michele Tucker, Rebekah Eakin, Ashley Nichols, Carissa Stanko; and (back): Darin Baker, Sandy Martin, Stephen Martin, Stacey Young, Jess Carroll, David Carroll and Gary Sabatini. (Submitted photo)
From staff reports

After 18 years and more than 700 graduates, the Small Business Jump Start program held a graduation ceremony May 5 for several local people who completed the program.

“It started here in Franklin and has spread to Meadville and Corry,” said Gary Svetz, instructor for the SBJS program.

Svetz spoke to the most current crop of graduates in the basement of Northwest Bank in Franklin, which is where the nine-week class was conducted.

During the SBJS classes, participants are taught how to set business goals, develop a business plan, learn financial basics, marketing techniques and develop sales skills. In addition, program materials, packaged discounts, memberships, and access to small-business loans add a $2,500 value to their class, according to Svetz, who owns a consulting service in Meadville.

“The Small Business Jump Start program was a national initiative that we kept alive regionally,” Svetz said. He added that the SBJS participants who either start or expand a business, or who continue their existing business, have an 85 percent success rate, which is above the national average.

As Svetz called the graduates up to receive their plaques denoting their completion of the course, he gave them an opportunity to talk about their experiences with the program.

“I gained the foundational skills and a respect for what it takes to create a business,” said Ashley Nichols.

Sandy and Stephen Martin, who are starting a cosmetology business called Beautiful You, said the class provided a lot of useful information that they will need for their enterprise. Their business provides professional makeup artistry, including on-location visits.

Graduates Jess and David Carroll are starting a service business. They said they also learned “so many things” that will aid them in their business venture.

Gary Sabatini, a military veteran, and his partner, Carissa Stanko, have started a Jeep repair shop. “I gained a lot of insight and guidance about how to structure my business,” Sabatini said.

Hannah Gamble, who has been planning the opening of a coffee shop in Franklin, is among the graduates of the SBJS program. Her new Iron Furnace Coffee shop is set to open soon along Liberty Street.

Another graduate, military veteran Darin Baker, plans to start an undercoating business for cars. “I’ve retired from law enforcement, and now I want to sell and prep cars.”

Rebekah Eakin opened a flower shop in April. “I learned so much from the class,” she said “I now know how to deal with the little things that I would have never come up with on my own.”

Svetz encouraged the graduates to stay in touch with him as they take their next steps in business ownership. He said he enjoys “completing the circle” with former SBJS graduates, and noted that he recently helped someone sell the business that he helped them start years ago.

Sponsors for this latest session of SBJS class include the Keystone Community Education Council, County of Venango, Northwest Bank, Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce, FICDA, Clarion County Community Bank, Seneca Printing Express, City of Franklin, PMP Printing, Save A Lot food stores, and the Oil Region Alliance.

The SBJS classes are offered in the fall and spring. Also, sometimes there is a SBJS class offered solely for military veterans, Svetz said.

More information can be found by calling the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce at (814) 432-5823.

The Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER grant, brokered by the Keystone Community Education Council, helped with the sponsorship of the SBJS program.