Ben West of Whitesburg always had a desire to start his own business. But fear of failure kept him from pursuing that goal.
“When you look around and see other businesses that have opened and closed a short time later, it can be a frightening thing,” West said.
West’s fears were relieved after he completed Business Your Way, a six-month instructor-led entrepreneurial training course hosted at the LKLP Community Action Council’s Perry County JobSight workforce center in Hazard.
After completing the course, presented by The Center for Rural Development in partnership with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), West is now pursuing plans to open a deli and bakery in Letcher County which he plans to call the River Mill Country Market.
Business Your Way helps prospective entrepreneurs develop their business ideas and get ready to launch a business venture. The course is part of The Center’s Your Center of Learning workforce and career-training program.
“Business Your Way provides participants with a toolbox that can be used on an ongoing basis to analyze information, effectively plan, and adjust as needed to grow successful businesses in Eastern Kentucky,” instructor and coach Tracey Skinner said.
During the training, participants receive three months of classroom instruction and three months of one-on-one mentoring and coaching opportunities. Everyone starts out with a business idea and works to develop a business plan by working through “real life” situations that help them to better understand what it takes to own and operate a business.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the region’s—and America’s—economy,” Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center for Rural Development, said. “If The Center is going to accomplish its core mission to provide leadership that stimulates innovative and sustainable economic development solutions, we have to support our business leaders and grow the entrepreneurial spirit in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
“Business Your Way is one of the instructor-led courses offered through our Your Center of Learning workforce and career-training program that is helping to equip and build a network of entrepreneurs across the region,” he added.
West said he changed his mind three or four times before he decided to look into opening the River Mill Country Market, where customers will also be able to purchase bulk foods at competitive prices.
He said he settled upon the idea after researching which businesses would and would not work well in Letcher County and in the Southeastern Kentucky region.
Skinner said this research is an important part of Business Your Way, adding it is not uncommon for participants to change their concepts after they discover their initial ideas may not be right for them, their community, or the buying public.
It was through this process that West finally found his niche. He admits he likely would not have gotten to this point at all had he not taken the Business Your Way training course.
“Through the training, I learned all of the tools I needed that would give clear guidance to implement the research needed to see if the business idea was plausible, how to formulate a plan toward the business success, and also the tools to operate the business,” West said. “With this knowledge, fear isn’t such a problem after all.”
West and 12 other participants graduated from the latest Business Your Way session in November at the Perry County JobSight. Eleven participants graduated from the inaugural Business Your Way class held during the first half of 2010 at the Bell County JobSight, located at the Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency in Pineville.
Skinner, who taught both entrepreneurial training sessions on behalf of The Center, said she often heard participants comment, “I didn’t realize what I needed to know before I began my business.”
“We are all limited by our life experiences,” she said. “We know what we know, but not what we don’t know. Business Your Way equips participants with the tools they need to make wise, educated decisions concerning their business.”
For more information on Business Your Way or other Your Center of Learning online and instructor-led courses, contact The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000 or visit centertech.com.