MANKATO — Angel Uribe started her own licensed drug and alcohol counseling business in 2011, but several years later she needed some help to jump from a one-woman show to a growing business.
She went through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation's Prosperity Initiative program, receiving intensive training and being paired with a business coach who worked closely on fixing shortcomings in her business plan and preparing her for growth.
"It was absolutely a worthwhile experience. It allowed me to level up in the business in a way I only dreamed of. They provided resources and tools and support that was unending and it still continues. They encourage you," said Uribe, owner of Stages of Change Center in Mankato.
Now 16 new minority-owned businesses, or those planning to start a business, are enrolled in the latest initiative.
Pam Bishop, vice president of economic development at SMIF, said need for the program is growing.
"We continue to see an influx of diversity in our communities, specifically people who want to start companies or expand their operations. The community is often new to them and the resources unknown. So we want to reach out to give minority business owners the resources they need for a successful launch or expansion," Bishop said.
Most of those enrolled already have a business but some have an idea for a business they want to start.
"Most of them need help understanding their finances, understanding terminology, having a system like QuickBooks. Even if they've been in business a while they need some business plan support, reviewing their plan if they have one, to see if it's current and if it addresses where they want to go the next three years," Bishop said.
The coaches also focus on marketing and building efficiencies into the businesses. "And in a lot of cases it's just building confidence as a business owner."
Taking it up a notch
Uribe, who grew up speaking English and Spanish, said going through the program upped her confidence and knowledge.
She had 15 years of experience working in substance abuse assessment and treatment in the Department of Corrections before opening her Stages of Change Center, which is now located on the third floor of the Profinium building.
"Support is the backbone of success in business. It's nice to know southern Minnesota cares about creating those opportunities," Uribe said.
Since going through the program she has added an administrative assistant and is bringing in another counselor. She also contracts with other local businesses for IT support and marketing.
"We have some systems in place to manage that growth. That part was incredibly helpful, to build in a system that prepares me for growth."
She now hopes to make her business — which offers classes and one-on-one coaching — better known to people in the area.
"My business before was based on referrals, now I have the opportunity to go out there to the community and tell them about the programs we have."
Bishop said the Prosperity Initiative, which started in 2015, has reached 66 companies. "We've provided 2,000 hours of technical assistance and business education. And we've invested over $150,000 through our loan portfolio here and other partners, including Region 9 and individual banks."
They have 20 coaches that work for several months with those going through the initiative.
SMIF covers a 20-county region but most of those in the program in the past were in the immediate Mankato area.
This year they have participants from Madelia, St. Peter, Faribault and Northfield, in addition to Mankato.
According to the Census Bureau, 29% of Minnesota’s population will be people of color by 2040, an increase from only 4% in 1980.
In the Mankato region eight businesses have been selected for the program:
Erick Noe Cortez Martínez and María Teresa Cortez de Pérez (restaurant).
Krystal Rose Hernandez; La Plaza Fiesta restaurant, Madelia.
Nemuel Garcia Zarate; Z&L Drywall Services, St. James.
Allan Mauricio Galvan Romero (restaurant and bar).
Blanca Esthela Zaragoza Palma and Roberto Palma Zamora; Palzar Investments (apartment rentals).
Martha Angelica Quiñonez Solis; La Frontera Market (grocery).
Gloria E. Campos Lopez; Glorian’s cc (online clothing) in Mankato.
Khalid Omar; Imperial Code (high end clothing brand) in St. Peter.