gazette logo rev 500

By Meghan Godby

This month, 14 small businesses will graduate from Launch!, a business development program hosted by the Jefferson County Business Resource Center (JCBRC). Now in its fourth year, the course is designed to educate participants on all aspects of running a business - everything from writing a business plan to learning the ins and outs of finances and marketing.

Amira Watters, who runs the program and also serves as the executive director of the JCBRC, explains.

“Business owners are very passionate about their ideas and services,” she points out. “But they often fail to understand everything that is involved with launching, managing and growing a successful business. They don’t know what they don’t know, but that can be the Achille’s Heel.”

“We have launched more than 50 unique business in Jefferson County since the program started,” Amira shared, “and over 100 businesses have [participated].”

Originally, Launch! was a six-week program geared towards start-ups and new businesses (i.e., in operation for less than two years). However, Amira knew that more people could benefit, so it has expanded to include all businesses, even those that are more well-established.

It now runs for nine weeks and focuses on a different topic each week. Capped at 15 participants, it’s small and intimate, giving businesses the benefit of one-on-one attention. Each module is led by one or several business owners who are experts in their field.

“We have roughly 13-17 business owners from Jefferson County that have risen to the top of their industry,” Amira shares. “They are highly vetted and really believe in the cause.”

These professionals are not only successful but also generous, donating their time completely free of charge. They come from a variety of different industries but include Deb York of York Insurance, attorney Mike Ambroziak and Valerie Morris of Tintero Creative.

The classes are shadowed by Lou Riverso, a business advisor to the JCBRC. She observes if participants are struggling with a certain area of focus, like bookkeeping, for example, and follows up with them to make sure they are getting the help they need.

The results have been outstanding. Businesses are growing and participants are leaving more confident than ever. But it’s not just the new guys who are seeing a benefit; Amira shared that one participant had been in business for 25 years - the course “changed his life and changed his business,” she shares. “It almost doubled!”

So, what’s next? Amira doesn’t see things slowing down anytime soon. Thanks to a new $5,000 sponsorship from Sunflower Bank in 2019, things can only get better. In fact, the JCBRC plans to launch an alumni meeting at the end of the year.

“Now that we’re four years in, we’re planning an annual opportunity for alumni to come together for special training and networking,” she said. “We want to keep in touch with them, do some surveys to see where they’re at today.”

For more information, visit jeffcobrc.org or call 303-996-8976.