For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, coming up with a great idea is only the first step in creating a successful business. Even if you’ve got an awesome product idea and know how to produce it, it can be an uphill battle to produce, package, market and sell it. Add in the challenges associated with being a woman in a man’s world, and some women just give up.
But then you have Community Ventures, a non-profit group that created the Women’s Business Center of Kentucky in 2011 to help women who want to own and operate their own businesses. From its Louisville office inside the ChefSpace building on West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, the Center offers counseling and coaching on creating business plans, finding financing, cash flow projections and marketing. Most importantly, it provides a networking atmosphere for business owners to learn from each other.
“We have resources here, on site, for those avenues of your business that you don’t know until you make the mistake,” said Jessica Morgan, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Community Ventures. “You stumble and fall, and no one is there to hold your hand. At least we can offer a little bit of expertise.”
Morgan found her current role as a way to marry her passions. A former protege of acclaimed chef Michael Paley at Proof on Main, the upscale restaurant at the 21C Hotel, she started her own personal chef and catering business in 2015. She needed a kitchen, so she got involved in ChefSpace. Before all that, she had spent several years in marketing positions.
Now she helps entrepreneurs succeed with Community Ventures, a statewide organization with a focus on three areas — West Louisville, East Lexington and the rural community of Millersburg, just east of Lexington.
Entrepreneurs have a number of ways to get help through the Women’s Business Center, Morgan said. There’s one-on-one coaching. There’s a five-week Business Builder Course, a monthly Lunch and Learn series, and a Conference and Expo in the fall. The Expo attracts well-known speakers, provides educational sessions and offers a trade show floor for vendors. Last fall, more than 300 women attended the Expo, headlined by business leader and speaker Krystal Ball.
Morgan said one of the Center’s key tasks is showing entrepreneurs how to finance their businesses, often through micro-loans of $500 to $2,000. Even a relatively small loan can be used to purchase the equipment to get a business running.
“We teach them how to get a loan, and how to repay it,” she said. “The success of the business is what’s important. It’s a good starting point for entrepreneurs, to have a loan and have it not be burdensome.”
The results can be amazing. Sarah Allgeier, who started a baking business, DelectaBites, is the first graduate of the ChefSpace program who took advantage of the program’s offerings. She started in a kitchen at ChefSpace, and graduated to a brick-and-mortar location in the Bittersweet Shopping Center in 2016.