Small business entrepreneurs receive seed funding, business training to bring their ideas to life
Even in a pandemic, it is hard to hold a good idea down. Such is the case for nine Tarrant County entrepreneurs who have been selected to participate in the first cohort of the Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Fund (EEVF), administered through Tarrant County College. TCC is the only community college in Texas to be named a Phase two recipient of EEVF by the National Association for Community Entrepreneurs (NACCE) and its initial sponsors, Chip and Stuart Weismiller. The Weismillers established the million-dollar venture fund to provide seed grants to community-college foundations for community-based new business start-ups.
Chosen from a pool of 26 applicants, the EEVF projects range from a ranch offering programs to help those struggling with trauma, to adult daycare utilizing virtual technology, a drone video service that captures aerial footage, and more. Each cohort participant receives seed funding to help bring their business idea to life, as well as 12 months of group and customized training to hone their skills through learning and development programs at TCC and its Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is part of TCC Corporate Solutions & Economic Development (CSED).
Meet the entrepreneurs
The initial cohort of TCC EEVF participants are as diverse as their start-up businesses, including eight minorities or people of color, and seven women-owned businesses. The first of two cohorts per year, participants include:
- Justin McLaughlin, Xenia Roastery – a specialty coffee roastery featuring fresh beans sold through a subscription service and to local retailers.
- LaKeitha Van Zandt Muckelroy, Caring Hands Adult Day Center – an in-home adult daycare with virtual programs conducted by licensed health care professionals.
- Ana Ambriz, AMP Materials – a materials management company that specializes in supplying reinforced rebar steel for commercial building projects.
- Carlos Walker, Akachi Ranch – a working ranch where visitors can come to heal through horse therapy and other programs.
- Arlene Peterson, Arlene Speaks It – a consulting service that provides individual and corporate support on everything for diversity training to individual career coaching.
- Philip Viola, Nor-Tex Drone Services – a drone video service that provides aerial footage for real estate and other applications.
- Charletra Sharp, Cup O’ Vibes – a specialty café featuring coffee and ethnic drinks in South Arlington.
- Brent Bousqeut, In Good Hands – an emergency medical training service for individuals, corporations and health care workers requiring certification.
- Timesha Brown, TK Specialty Rentals – a party event rental company supporting small to large venues.
Making dreams come true
While the motivation to start a business varies among the EEVF participants, all are passionate about making their dream come true.
For LaKeitha Van Zandt Muckelroy, who is a registered nurse, launching Caring Hands Adult Day Center is all about keeping people with intellectual and developmental challenges engaged, which she says has been made more difficult due to the pandemic. “It is very challenging to bring someone with Alzheimer’s into a facility and require them to wear a mask. My idea is to engage them virtually at home.”
Carlos Walker, who is director of the Family Action Center for the Fort Worth Independent School District and a former principal at Dunbar High School (2012-2015), wants to get more people back to nature, especially those who have been traumatized in some way. Whether riding horses, fishing or participating in a “therapy camp,” the idea for his non-profit is to create a peaceful, safe space where people can escape technology and reflect on their larger purpose.
For Ana Ambriz, starting a business is a path to providing more for her family. “I’m a single mother of four and I’m willing to work for this as way to put my kids through college.” The same can be said for Justin McLaughlin, who wants to take the simple pleasure of a good cup of coffee to the next level, building a bean roastery business that provides a good life for his family, which includes a set of twins.
When Timesha Brown learned about the EEVF opportunity she saw it as a way to fill an unmet need in the community. Already working in event planning, she found herself having to go outside of Tarrant County for rental items. She says the EEVF program has helped her take action and do something about it. “You take the moment, and you ask yourself, ‘What can I get from this?’” Ultimately, she feels EEVF is about seizing the opportunity.
Arlene Peterson, who brings an abundance of diversity and career counseling expertise to Tarrant County, is all about “helping people recognize their value.” Her consulting has helped job seekers improve their resumes and land higher paying jobs to improve their life.
Charleta Sharp also recognized an unmet need, noting a shortage of specialty cafés available in the South Arlington community. She imagines serving a wide selection of coffee, ethnic drinks and specialty blends her customers can enjoy, with “Cup O’ Vibes” ultimately becoming a destination place to gather and relax.
Two firefighters are also part of the first cohort, leveraging their expertise in creative ways. Philip Viola, who is also a former police officer and arson inspector, is expanding on his passion for flying, using drones for aerial inspection and other applications. Brent Bousqeut is using his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training to teach lifesaving skills such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to people in the community, as well as to health care professionals seeking certification. “People on the scene are the ones that can provide the first response – if they know what to do. We can help train anyone to render aid until help arrives,” he said.
Connecting with TCC
For many of the EEVF participants, this isn’t their first connection with TCC. For instance, LaKeitha Van Zandt Muckelroy received her Associate Degree in Nursing from TCC, continuing at Texas Christian University (TCU) to complete her Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN). Timesha Brown earned an Associate Degree of Arts in Business at TCC, completing her bachelor’s degree at Hampton University. Justin McLaughlin also earned an associate degree from TCC, completing a Bachelor’s in Economics and a Master’s in Public Administration, both from The University of Texas at Arlington. Philip Viola has been a student at TCC multiple times, completing paramedic, firefighting, fire science and police academy training.
Others had tapped into the TCC SBDC prior to learning about EEVF, with Ana Ambriz seeking help to become minority-certified through the Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) program, administered through the Fort Worth Women’s Business Council, Southwest. Brent Bousqeut and Charleta Sharp and made their connection first through the Tarrant County Small Business Development Association, which partners with TCC SBDC. Carlos Walker learned about EEVF through a TCC employee.
While Arlene Peterson had no prior connection with TCC, she is no stranger to the community college system, having spent much of her career at City University of New York (CUNY), which is the largest public university system in the United States. “I’m from the education system and I really appreciate EEVF because it is doing what community colleges are supposed to do, from an economic development standpoint, supporting and mentoring small businesses so they can grow. My success is TCC’s success.”
Helping the community
“Long-term, we expect this program to have significant impact on the community,” explained Shannon Bryant, TCC Executive Vice President of CSED. “This is helping people who otherwise may not have the resources to launch and sustain a new business, which ultimately helps our community to grow and thrive.”
Lourdes Ramboa, chair, Business & Entrepreneurship Programs at TCC, is developing customized curriculum for the EEVF participants. “We are very excited to announce our first recipients,” she said, and explained that the entrepreneurs also will be assigned to a TCC advisor and meet as a group for joint training through the SBDC.
“We are lining up subject matter experts to speak to the entrepreneurs based on initial feedback we’ve receive from them,” explained Rodney Johnson, who is the director of the Tarrant SBDC. “For instance, they’ve expressed interest in hearing from a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) to track documentation, as well as an attorney who can discuss a range of business entities, comparing the differences between a legal liability corporation (LLC) and a S-Corp, as well as non-profit status.”
Want to learn more about the TCC EEVF program? Contact us today at (817) 515-2500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.