New initiatives aimed at helping minority entrepreneurs

Greenhouse, TBBBIC offering intensive aid
Posted at 5:58 PM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 18:12:56-04

The economy's gotten better but a lot of people are still having a tough time finding a job. That's leading to more people starting their own businesses. It's a struggle for anyone, but minority entrepreneurs face special challenges, often a lack of cash flow to get their companies going.

That's why two new programs are launching, aimed at helping their success.

Renee Edwards is learning a lot about what it takes to run a business.

"Success doesn't happen overnight," Edwards said.

Right now, she works two jobs, while working to get her skin care line called Skin Kandii off the ground.
She says there have been a lot of nights playing "kitchen chemist" just to get the formula and packaging right..

"I took my savings and invested in a website, and i started doing different trade shows, arts and crafts shows to spread the awareness that you can improve your skin naturally," said Edwards.

But making a profit and getting into stores hasn't been easy. So she applied for a new program called CATCH through the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation in St. Pete. CATCH aims to help entrepreneurs like Renee Edwards succeed, while also helping struggling areas, like south St. Pete, grow.

"What we hope to do, and we're trying to do, is to be a rock for those individuals that need that capital, that need someone they can come talk to about their plans, and we can be one of the catalysts in making this area come back so it can enjoy its rich entrepreneurial history," said Albert Lee, president of the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp.

CATCH is currently helping 10 small business start-ups..with an intensive 15-week program. Once they finish the classes, they'll get a cash stipend to help their business grow.

"There are a lot of people that want to grow in that dream, and we're just glad we can have a small part in making that happen, and we see that beginning to  happen down here in south St. Petersburg," said Lee.

Renee Edwards says the program is already providing critical guidance helping her learn how to better market and develop her company.  As a result, she's already gotten Skin Kandii into two local shops.

"My dream is to leave the business to my kids, to leave a legacy.  My dream is to only sell skin care products and give back to my community as well," said Edwards.

The Black Business Investment Corp. thinks in a few years, small business owners like Edwards could help totally change the landscape of South 22nd St. and beyond.

To learn more about CATCH, you can contact the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp. at (727) 826-5785.

The St. Pete Greenhouse is also launching a new effort to help minority entrepreneurs. There's an info session on that starting at 5:30pm Tuesday at St. Pete College's midtown campus. You can also call the Greenhouse for more info at (727) 893-7146