Human Resources, Lakeshore, and Nonprofits

Cultivate Holland seeks to eliminate poverty through jobs

Program offers training, mentoring and — hopefully — financing.

April 4, 2014
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Instead of teaching people how to fish, one lakeshore organization is seeking to teach how to deliver a whole school of fish to people in need.

Cultivate Holland, a nonprofit organization, is fighting poverty one job at a time. In collaboration with Partners Worldwide, a global nonprofit Christian ministry, Cultivate Holland is offering a 12-week business training program for entrepreneurs and business owners seeking best business practices.

Ray David, one of the founders of Cultivate Holland, said the primary objective of the organization is to help lift people out of poverty through the creation of jobs.

“During the course of these 12 weeks, we encourage these business people to look first at adding staff from the inner city, or the core city, before they go through their normal sourcing,” said David. “We understand that not everybody will be qualified for all the positions, but we can certainly make a dent.”

The Grow Your Business course utilizes the Partners Worldwide business curriculum, which is used globally and targeted for small and medium enterprises. Some of the business skills emphasized include: marketing, company branding, competition recognition in the market and accounting.

Cultivate Holland held its first class March 13 and has grown in attendance each week, according to David.

Costing $200 per member, the program provides intensive training, coaching and mentoring for individuals looking to start, expand or increase productivity in business. The fee is used to cover expenses, and the remaining balance is being underwritten by donations and grant funding. The course can cost from $2,500 to $3,000 on the open market depending on who runs it, according to David.

Sergio Reyes, co-founder of Cultivate Holland, said the curriculum is not for the faint hearted and is offered for those who already have businesses but may not have formal training.

“We give them some formal training,” said Reyes. “The idea is to help them catch up with the rest of the business people.”

By collaborating with Partners Worldwide, Cultivate Holland has access to its worldwide Christian business network, in addition to assistance in structuring the organization and coordinating local relationships. Partners Worldwide provides partnerships, training and mentoring, access to capital and justice advocating as part of its approach, according to its website.

Rudy Carrasco, regional facilitator in the United States for Partners Worldwide, said the organization had been communicating with David since the middle of 2013 regarding an affiliation.

“They want to provide business training that is excellent for anyone in Holland, regardless of your station in life or your experience in business,” said Carrasco. “I think some of the businesses directly, right there in the urban core, will be strengthened and will grow.”

As of June 30, 2013, Partners Worldwide had 57 partner affiliations in more than 24 countries, which has resulted in the creation of 6,834 new jobs, according to its website. According to Carrasco, the measurement of job creation and sustainment is important to the organization.

“We chose that because that is what the world is clamoring for, that is what people are looking for,” said Carrasco. “A World Bank study a few years back asked, I think, 60,000 people what their plan was to get out of poverty and they said, ‘a job.’”

The Grow Your Business program also offers an investment of capital for those involved in the course. Cultivate Holland is looking to raise funds of up to $10,000 in order to issue micro-loans, and is pursuing organizations and individuals with an existing relationship as investors first.

“We’re really relying on people who we already know who are in business. We are sharing our story with some of them, and we’ve received really positive feedback,” said David.

Cultivate Holland was created in response to recognizing a need to help individuals living in high unemployment areas, and out of a passion to help others. David and his wife moved from the north side of Holland to the core of the city in 2012 after feeling compelled to make a difference, and noticed the necessity for job opportunities for people living in the city neighborhoods.

Reyes said the idea of the organization is raise people up with dignity, since a system of dependency is often created when those without jobs are forced to live on the generosity of others.

“Here in Holland, we have a whole community that is dependent; that is living on the graces of others,” said Reyes. “Cultivate Holland is grabbing people who were dependent their whole life to raise them up to take care of themselves.”

Reyes, who has experience with recruiting as a military veteran, went on to say the project has met with little or no resistance and has exceeded expectations. According to David, they were anticipating a decline in attendance as the program progressed and focused more on intensive training. Attendance for the first week was roughly eight actual paid members, but then grew to more than 10 the second week. David and Reyes were expecting more individuals to participate in the third class.

“We are very excited about what is going to happen here,” said Reyes. “If we can do it here, we can do it in Muskegon Heights, Covert — all over the United States.”

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