JumpStart Evanston to kick off, offering free business classes

JumpStart Evanston organizers prepare to discuss the upcoming program, which will offer several free classes beginning next month. Pictured are Rocco O’Neill, Brent Hatch, Ben Bell, Becky Davis and Mieka Madrid. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — “We want to show entrepreneurs that Evanston banks and the City really do want to help small business grow and thrive here,” Evanston Community Development Coordinator Rocco O’Neill said at a meeting with the JumpStart volunteer board. 

The key organizers of the new program are O’Neill, Uinta County Economic Development Commission Chair Brent Hatch, First Bank Community Reinvestment Act Coordinator Becky Davis, First Bank Regional Market Manager Ben Bell and Evanston Community Relations Grant Writer Mieke Madrid. 

The recent target market study for Southwestern Wyoming had shown evidence of a lack of support for entrepreneurs, so Hatch and O’Neill decided to look for a way to provide that support. They investigated the JumpStart program, which had been successful in Etna, and decided to replicate it in Uinta County.

Ken Schaible of Star Valley, during a telephone call with Davis, summarized how the program was started. In 2012, Star Valley was experiencing an economic decline and local residents Schaible and Ty Green were members of the Board of Trustees for the Star Valley Community Complex in Etna. They were tasked with trying to find ways to help new and existing businesses, such as a business incubator program. They contacted Elaina Zempel of the Wyoming Business Council for help. That communication led them to believe that many people have an entrepreneurial desire or dream but don’t know what it takes to get started or sustain a business. Schaible and Green talked to local businesses and groups and determined that there was a great base of individuals in their communities that could and were willing to share information with others about their experiences and expertise. 

In 2012, with the support of the Wyoming Business Council, Schaible and Green created the eight classes over eight weeks that comprise the JumpStart program. In Etna, that program has helped 40 businesses start up and all continue to be sustainable and viable in that community. 

The Evanston JumpStart program has 15 local business sponsors and the board is actively encouraging and seeking support from others. Currently those local sponsors are First Bank; Uinta BOCES No. 1; City of Evanston; Evanston Chamber of Commerce; Clean Energy; PacifiCorp; UCEDC; Murdoch’s; Aspen Cinemas; Long, Reimer, Winegar & Beppler; US Bank; Impact Physical Therapy; NGL Connection; Uinta Realty and Trona Valley Credit Union. Donations are received through BOCES and a fund has been established for the seed money prize.

According to promotional material, “The mission of Jumpstart Evanston is to provide education and resources to entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses; while providing jobs, spurring economic development, and improving the quality of life in our community.”

JumpStart Evanston will offer seven free business classes taught by local, successful professionals to coach and inspire local entrepreneurs to achieve their own dreams. The program is a competition for Evanston residents interested in starting and/or growing a business. Those who register and attend all seven classes will be eligible to compete for funding and the use of a free office space.

The program will start with a mixer at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, at the Roundhouse in Evanston. Anyone can attend the mixer to find out more about the program and the classes offered. The free classes will start with an orientation at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29, and classes will then be held at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 12, 19 and 26; March 4, 11, 18 and 25; and April 1 and 8. Final presentations on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 14-15, will conclude the program. 

The classes are taught by successful local business owners, attorneys, bankers, Wyoming Community Development personnel, Small Business Development Center personnel and University of Wyoming faculty. Classes will include subjects on writing a business plan, accounting and bookkeeping, legal concepts, marketing, customer service and sales.

 The final presentations are when those who have attended all seven classes will present their business plan to a group of local professionals, acting as judges. Those judges will score the written business plan in advance and then will score the narrative presentation during the competition. Based on independent scoring from all judges, the winner will be announced by the end of the evening on April 15. The local winner will have access to funding and office space administered by Uinta BOCES No. 1.

JumpStart Evanston board members said they hope the program will evolve and their plans are to hold it annually or bi-annually depending on interest. They encourage existing local business owners to attend the mixer and sign up for the classes. However, the seed money and the free office space for a year, which class attendees compete for, is only for a start-up entrepreneur.

“Another highlight of this program is that all participants will have access to a continual support network with the coaches who will be teaching the classes and with each other. That support network is just as important as the seed money,” Bell said.

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