Agencies in Salt Lake County collaborated to show low-income single parents how to improve their futures by becoming their own bosses. Now those agencies are seeking funding to turn the plans they developed into reality.

"The Entrepreneurship for Single Parents program was targeted for very low-income single parents," said Douglas Tapking, executive director of the Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake, one of the agencies that founded the program. "Low-income housing is not readily available. So members of several agencies got together to think of ways to improve the economic reliability of our families. We wanted to get them up and moving and back into the community."Housing authority, Small Business Administration and regional Housing and Urban Development representatives wanted to give residents of low-income public housing opportunities to change their lives.

The result was a 20-week program that involved volunteer entrepreneurs as teachers, Salt Lake Community College as host and dozens of low-income people who wanted to see if they could become small-business owners. And 21 individuals completed the free 66-hour course.

Tapking says he hopes the program will improve the availability of low-income housing, boost the incomes of poor families and reduce the tax burden created by reliance on public assistance.

In the first part of the three-phase program, topics included responsibility, accountability, personal empowerment, getting ready to start a business, how to look and act like a business owner, home-based businesses and how to identify the market for an idea. In the next phase, emphasis was on developing business plans. Students learned where to go to talk about financing, understanding the intricacies of running the business and other aspects of business planning and management.

Phase 3, establishing a micro enterprise loan fund, has stalled a little, Tapking said. "Most of the people we've been working with don't have the credit to get a business loan, although most need less than $5,000. We've talked to HUD and SBA officials and bankers in the state to see if we can get them to contribute. We figure we need to raise $250,000 as loan money and collateral for loans from other sources."

Salt Lake County commissioners have tentatively indicated they will provide $50,000 to the collateral fund.

The students who completed the program have a broad range of ideas. One student plans to open a restaurant. Another wants to start a computer company that would help people locate funding for college. Another has developed and wants to market a new cleaning project.

Tapking hopes the ESP Program will be offered periodically in various locations along the Wasatch Front. In the meantime, class is out but teachers and students are staying in touch as they pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

For information, call 487-5453.