- Faith & Family
Four years ago, Liberty City resident Leroy Jones, 50, began brainstorming for ways to help local small businesses that wanted to stay in and offer services to their own community. Most of them, however, did not have the funds needed to rent a space, hire office personnel or purchase essential tools like computers, copiers, fax machines and desks. His idea led to the creation of a one-stop shop for startup businesses — the Audrey M. Edmonson Small Business Development Hub [ESBDH], located at 4055 NW 17th Avenue.
“I went to the Commissioner with the idea and she was all for it,” Jones said. “She awarded us $25,000 so that we could get equipment and we figured it was only right to name the hub in her honor. Some furniture also came from St. La and Teen Pregnancy. It’s been a real team effort. The best thing is that we are almost at capacity here and it’s really helping new Black-owned businesses get a leg up on the competition.”
An impressive range of services
ESBDH offers a variety of services for both its registered businesses [a capacity of 10] and those who walk in to use three available computers. Local residents can also get help with job searches, food stamp applications and resume/cover letter writing. And there’s a conference room that is open to anyone. Jones adds that the services are free to the public — something that is rare in the current economy.
“Across the U.S., incubators and small business assistance centers have become very popular but the majority of them charge a fee — even if it’s a nominal one,” he said. “With the County’s financial support, we don’t have to charge one penny.”
Edmonson explains why she stepped forward to help Jones.
“I support the business incubators in District 3 and Leroy Jones,” she said. “The incubators have assisted small and start-up businesses with a temporary place to call home and allow for technical support while the businesses get started. These incubators have been a tremendous help in the Black community where small start-up businesses historically fail nationwide. It has been a win-win for the business and the community.”
Anthony Scott, 46, has been at the hub for three years and is the owner of 2 Ruff Entertainment — a party rental and promotion company [email@example.com].
“It’s fantastic to have the hub right in our own backyard,” he said. “It’s really helped me provide a more professional look to my business. I’m from Miami and I know how rare such places are, especially in the Black community. Business is great for me and it’s because I am part of the hub.”
Ty Jones has been at the hub for one year and is the owner of Home Helpers of South Florida —a business that provides in-home care to seniors and those with disabilities at “a more affordable price”[firstname.lastname@example.org].
“A lot of people can’t afford senior citizens centers or assisted living facilities,” he said. “I provide nurses that go into their homes as companions or helpers. The resources here at the hub have made it possible for me to see a need in the community and do something about it. I’ve been able to start over and that’s possible for anyone if they are hungry enough. Low-income residents need health care too and I’m making that happen.”
Robert Mc Williams, Jr., 40, is the owner of All Pro Travel — providing travel consulting for individuals, groups and corporations.
“I’ve been in the business for 15 years and have worked with celebrities, corporate groups and of course everyday people,” he said. “Since Obama became president, there are more grants available for small businesses. The great thing about the hub is that I didn’t have to worry about startup costs. I was able to use my money to develop my websites and to work on building relationships and growing my clientele.”
For more information or to reach any of the businesses cited above, call 786-431-5383.
By D. Kevin McNeir