SpringGR: Springboard to SuccessBy Jane Whitttington on September 21st, 2016 /
SpringGR is all about turning ideas into thriving businesses. Launched in 2014, SpringGR is an organization offering training, mentoring and networking opportunities for hopeful entrepreneurs in underserved areas of the city and surrounding communities.
Director of Business Support, Attah Obando, says, “SpringGR is funded through the DeVos Family Foundation. We ran two pilot programs in the spring of 2014, and, when these proved successful, we went ahead with plans to continue running two programs a year, in the spring and in the fall.”
He continues, “It is important for us to be close to the clients we serve, so, although our headquarters is downtown, we offer programs at four sites throughout the city. One is Restorers, which is on Madison Street in the SE part of GR. It hosts various programs for citizens in that part of town. We are also at The Other Way Ministries on Fulton Street, Roosevelt Park Ministries, which serves many of our Hispanic community members, and Streams of Hope Ministry in Kentwood. All of our programs are located in one of these four venues.”
In order to eliminate barriers to program participants, both childcare and dinners are included for the three-hour-long class sessions. SpringGR programs last 12 weeks.
Even through the program has only been underway for a short period, it boasts impressive numbers. One hundred and twelve participants have graduated. Fifty-nine new businesses have been started, and all 59 are still in businesses. Seventy-eight percent of the businesses are minority owned and operated, and 57 percent are women-owned.
The 2016-17 fall session has just begun, and the next session will commence in March.
Obando says, “We ask that each of our participants come in with an idea for a business, and we guide them as they turn ideas into businesses. We anticipate about a 25 percent attrition rate, but we look at this in a positive light. Some students may discover that they are just not cut out to be entrepreneurs while others find that their idea is just not going to translate into success. It’s good that they find this out before they sink a lot of time and money into something that doesn’t have potential.”
He continues, “We have facilitators for each session, but we also bring in experts in financing, marketing, law, planning, personnel management and all other facets of getting a business up and running. We work with other community organizations like GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women), Start Garden and other such agencies.”
In planning the program, organizers looked at a similar program in Chattanooga, Tennessee called Launch Chattanooga. Adaptations were made to fit the program for Grand Rapids’ needs, and some curriculum content was added.
Since SpringGR is set in urban communities, outreach into the neighborhoods is essential in spreading the word. SpringGR also relies on Facebook, radio advertising and word of mouth to get the message out. So far, it is working, and all the sessions are at capacity.
Obando says, “When our graduates start businesses, they are most often in the urban community. When others in the community see success, they begin to see that they too might be able to make it as entrepreneurs. We aspire to what we see. We hope that our graduates will inspire others to see themselves as successful business people.”
He continues, “We had one woman who started a cleaning business, and she’s doing very well with it. Since then, both her mother and her brother have completed the program and are now entrepreneurs themselves.”
Obando urges everyone to take a look at what SpringGR has to offer and to consider participating in the next session in March. For more information about the program, visit www.springgr.com