Four months ago, 25 single parents living along the Wasatch Front dreamed about owning their own businesses.
So they did something about it: Every Saturday for 20 weeks they met at a local college to participate in a how-to-do-it program.Enthusiasm and confidence filled their graduation meeting Saturday.
"This class has given me the courage, motivation and the tools to go forth and be successful," participant Dave Handley said.
Another student, Debra Rainey, plans to open a business that will provide information to students seeking money for college. She's already spent 8,000 hours and $5,000 developing the idea.
"I'll launch it in six to eight months," she said. "The company will be the information source for students; it's based on personal service and integrity."
Rainey hopes to earn $94,445 her first year.
More than 180 single parents started the program last October, meeting at Salt Lake Community College. Only 25 finished.
"Don't quit, don't ever quit," Housing Authority executive director Douglas Tapking told the group. "You've come this far, keep going."
The training sessions are designed to assist single parents in determining if establishing a business is a viable option on the road to economic independence. Most of the participants are living in public or rent-subsidized housing.
Group members learned about financial management, business planning and customer service during the two-phase training program sponsored by the Salt Lake County Housing Authority, some private businesses and the U.S. Small Business Administration, .
About a dozen professionals, all successful in the business world, counseled the parents during the first phase, warning them about the ups and downs of owning a business. The second phase taught the participants "the nuts and bolts of establishing a business."
Rainey says five years ago, she wanted to open a business but didn't have those "nuts and bolts."
"I was just divorced and had a family to care for," she said. "I was ambitious but didn't know how to get started."
Many who attended the course are well on their way to success, director Sterling Francom said.
Christine Norman, for example, hopes to bring "big name" car racers to her family's track near Spanish Fork. She said the business has been in operation for 30 years but was run "more as a hobby."
Armed with the knowledge she has gained during the 20-week course, Norman plans to seek investors to upgrade the racing venue at the track. She hopes to sublease the snack bar operations to another company, install a new billboard and fill all 5,500 seats on a regular basis.
"Our market is all of the West," she said. "And we have plenty of room for expansion."
The Entrepreneurship for Single Parents course was the first of its kind in Utah, Tapking said.
Officials involved hope to establish a pool of money that could be lent to the new business owners.
"We're not talking about $50,000 here, maybe $1,000 or $5,000 just to get them off the ground. We hope private businesses will support us," Tapking said.