By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter
Thursday evening, July 28, the JET Center, a Junction Coalition business initiative, awarded five recipients $1000 mini grants upon the completion of their inaugural business cohort program sponsored by the Junction Coalition, Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, ECDI (Economic Community Development Institute and Warren AME Church.
JET Center’s mission is “to provide a viable voice to our neighbors and to cultivate healthy relationships throughout the community. Representing Junction Coalitions Economic Justice pillar,
the JET Center focuses on building wealth for community members.” (source:www.Junctioncoalition419.org/jet-center)
The recipients completed an eight-week business class together as a cohort. This was the inaugural cohort series hosted by the JET Center. Among the requirements for the program were that participants have addresses or businesses within the Junction neighborhood. The series will occur again in the fall and is free.
The aim of the program is to “connect entrepreneurs to opportunities in the community,” said Ocie Irons, JET Center Director. The program focuses on the entrepreneur rather than just the business itself by “building an entrepreneurial mindset, “he added. “That connectivity is what we’re trying to do at the JET Center that isn’t happening at other places.”
Alicia Smith, executive director of the Junction Coalition, provided remarks to the inaugural class. “Congratulations to everybody! I am looking forward to seeing all of your businesses flourish…you all are economic engines… you heal by making sure that generational wealth is present [and] generational poverty is gone. Without you we wouldn’t be.”
“[You give] hope also.” added Irons, “when you all are doing things and people get to observe what you’ve accomplished and see where you’re going…it gives everybody else hope.”
The grant recipients of the inaugural cohort program are:
Oscar Shaheer, Your Community Market, Owner
Shaheer has operated his community market for 21 years. He stated, “I want to give the community something that is positive rather than something that is negative…I could easily have a carryout…I could sell liquor, cigarettes, I could sell those things… but I’d like to do something different. For that reason I offer produce….within the inner city.”
His store is located on 1501 Nebraska Ave. He also sells his produce at different farmers markets throughout Toledo .
Shaheer soon plans to raise his own chickens and sell his own eggs in his store. He will use the grant he received to purchase an updated refrigerating unit to bring more fresh produce to the community.
Serina Garmon AE & B Rentals, CEO and Founder
“I’ve been a real estate investor for the last 20+ years. I go into inner city neighborhoods and purchase property and rehab them and make them affordable for inner city residents. ”Garmon stated that she has largely been financing the business on her own. “[The grant] will help me to be able to use the money for a major project: roofing,” she said.
The cohort program helped her to improve her business skills “[the program] helped me to see outside the box and look at different ways of branding myself. I really appreciate this opportunity,” added Garmon.
Angeli Austin-Taylor Destinee’s Barber & Beauty Salon, Owner
“I have a beauty salon and I am working on adding a spa,” said Austin-Taylor. She has been in the cosmetology industry for 27 years. “The Junction Coalition helped a lot with the classes that we took with helping me with my projection for taxes and branding as well. I’m honored to be apart of it and learn about the different things they have to offer.” The grant received will be used toward the purchase of the building for her new spa.
Walter Crockrel, BW Resellers, Founder
“My fiancé and I have started a resale business. We purchase pallets and we’re looking towards getting truckloads of goods that we can bring to the community and sell at a cheaper deal than what you would buy at a regular retail store, said Crockel. “We’re working right now on doing an online auction and an online store,” he added.
“We’re a start-up so [the program] has helped us learn about taxes and doing proper paperwork [etc.]”
The two plan to use the money towards inventory and out of pocket costs.
Shawanda Johnson F.A.M.E.D. Studios, Founder and Artistic Director
Famed Studios is a dance studio that offers a range of dance class from ages two and a half years to adult dance for the past 11 years. Johnson stated, “being a part of the JET initiative helped me to refreshen the knowledge I had learned previously and to gain new knowledge as well as resources and partnerships with other local businesses and community partners such as the JET initiative, Toledo Urban, ECDI”.
She plans to use the grant money for upkeep to her studio. ”Our open house is Sept. 10…we’ll be using [the grant] for advertisement, purchasing of new uniforms for staff, funding signage for the building, and adding a new sound system to the second dance hall.”
She added, “I recommend anyone who is a new business to take advantage of the next cohort… It is very beneficial. I appreciate the support that they are building with the different community partners in helping small black businesses grow.”
Information on the JET Center:
“The JET Center is a program of the Junction Coalition: The JET initiative combines resources of the JET Center with those of strategic partners Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union and Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI) to help community-based businesses grow and prosper.
Although many services can be rendered virtually, there is a physical space, located at 419 Junction Ave, where coaching and other consultations meetings can take place The offices will be open three days a week Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 10.00AM to 3:00PM. Consultations with an advisor and evening meetings are by appointment.’
For more information on the Junction Coalition and the JET Center visit www.junctioncoaliton419.org.