Human Resources, Lakeshore, and Small Business & Startups

Cultivate Holland expands training and mentoring services

Next session could feature training specifically for entrepreneurs.

October 10, 2014
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Based on its success and membership feedback, nonprofit startup Cultivate Holland is hoping to provide additional services for larger corporations, entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The lakeshore-based organization that strives to eliminate poverty through the creation of jobs is expanding its services to members of the business community interested in learning best practices.

Through its collaborative relationship with Partners Worldwide, a global nonprofit Christian ministry, Cultivate Holland offered Grow Your Business, a 12-week training program designed for small and medium-sized businesses, beginning March 2014.

Leveraging a curriculum incorporating three hours of class time and three hours of homework each week, the sessions emphasized various business aspects, including marketing, branding, competition recognition and accounting.

Upon completion of the first 12-week course, eight of roughly 15 participants graduated from the curriculum and led to the creation of several new employment positions.

Ray David, co-founder of Cultivate Holland, said the program is designed to help business owners in terms of sustainability and job growth, and to encourage new hires from the urban core to help fight poverty.

“Our end goal is to give them best practices and work with them, mentor them — even after the class is done — so they can hire people from the inner city,” said David. “We have had five new positions created and hired from the inner city. It is not a huge number, but we feel excited that we had that many on our first go-around.”

Based on feedback gathered from participants during the last session of the course, David said one avenue the organization is looking at is creating an additional six-week short course solely devoted to entrepreneurs.

“We can’t get better unless we have honest feedback. We are considering, when we have our next session in January, that we may break off into two groups: existing businesses, and then run a separate concurrent shorter course for those people who aren’t in business but want to start a business,” said David. “We are kind of excited about that; we are writing the curriculum right now for the short course.”

Although the cost for each member involved in the 12-week course will remain $200, the approximate fee for the six-week short course would be $50. The lower cost is attributed to entrepreneurs already having to make a personal investment in the future of their startup.

“The money doesn’t cover our cost, but it is important that they have a buy-in and they own something there,” said David. “That is why we charge.”

Two additional training and mentoring services the organization is pursuing involve a fall business seminar series held at the Maas Center at Hope College, and the potential implementation of virtual mentorship.

Incorporating facilitative learning and guest speakers, the business seminars were developed to reach out to members in the business community who are involved with larger corporations.

“One of the things that I have had concern about is that with our existing setup, we are really reaching a small cross-section of where I think we could be effective,” said David. “What we are doing is geared for small and medium-sized businesses — and, in reality, to small businesses. I have had it in my heart that people in large businesses have the same compassion for ending poverty as the people in small businesses.”

With the help of co-founder Sergio Reyes, David and the other board members developed the monthly seminars with a target audience that includes larger corporations. The series is based on RSVP attendance; general admission is $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

Some of the upcoming speakers include: Dr. John Knaap, president of Hope College and accomplished author; James Sullivan, author and former marketing and brand manager at Quaker Oats; and Rudy Carrasco, regional facilitator in the U.S. for Partners Worldwide.

David acknowledged Steve VanderVeen, director at the Center for Faithful Leadership at Hope College, as a donor for covering the cost of renting the Maas Center and connecting the organization with Knaap to be a speaker.

The benefits of having large businesses engaged with the organization could lead to recruiting those interested in becoming mentors to entrepreneurs or small business owners, and also increase awareness of how they can help those living at or below poverty level, according to David.

“We are having a little bit of a shift in our thinking to include larger corporations,” he said. “One of the benefits is that we will share with them how they can help disadvantaged people who are living at or below poverty levels for whatever reason.

The mentoring aspect extends beyond the timeframe of a course. Cultivate Holland’s team has continued to have direct consultation with three members for a collective total of more than 15 hours. Topics include marketing and risk associated with hiring an individual from the core city, according to David.

“Just because you take the class doesn’t mean you are done with us. We are going to come alongside you when we can,” he said. “We have talked to employers about how hiring someone at risk is going to be a different experience than going to Manpower. It takes commitment from these employers, and we are trying to broaden our base by making a shift to more executives and larger businesses. So far it has gone well.”

To address some of the risks, the organization is looking at how to partner with other organizations to train individuals who have not been employed before or are looking to re-enter the work force. Currently, Cultivate Holland is in the early stages of speaking with an organization in an adjoining state about a virtual program ready to implement with individuals recently released from prison.

Cultivate Holland’s collaboration with Partners Worldwide is based on aligning strategic plans to promote sustainable business growth and provides the Holland organization with access to a business network, capital and assistance.

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