BY JORDAN GIBBONS
In 2012, Sheila Washington was contacted by the Job Information Center at the Queens Library Central branch in Jamaica to start a small business workshop to help residents in Southeast Queens create and develop ideas for their own business.
Now, Washington said that the facility is a virtual incubator that helps attendees turn their ideas into something marketable in the commercial industry.
“They need the incubation process,” she said. “I try to get them to see the ‘how’ part. I give them the education to learn how to go about creating a successful and profitable business.”
During the last decade or two, Washington said the job market has changed so much that it is harder for the older generation to start up a business once they leave their job. She said it is better to keep an old job while starting the business.
A major hurdle is the fact that many jobs from the past are not around anymore and they are not coming back. Washington said she tries to help people make the change in this new generation.
“The culture has to change enough that the individual can turn their ideas into a business they can make a living off of,” she said. “Last month, we focused on creating a nonprofit.”
The workshop meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. and anybody can attend simply by walking into the library.
Tuesday night’s class was centered on figuring out a tagline for your business to help get the attention of a new business owner’s target audience entitled, “Does the world know what your product or service is?”
Washington helps people create a feasible working plan and business plan. The course goes over the outline for these plans and will continue this week’s lesson next Tuesday as well, by going into necessary marketing components and how to “Energize and Strategize Your Marketing Plan.”
One important point that Washington said she has to remind people is figuring out the population you are trying to market to and the best ways to get their attention.
“You have to mix that service with who it is for,” she said. “You want to have the most reach.”
Washington also offers one-on-one mentorship meetings on Wednesday afternoon for dedicated and engaged pupils. She also follows up with them to help them build on their ideas as they get further along in the process.
“It’s just a matter of being able to sit down and walk them through the steps,” she said. “And there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. I show them how to edit an idea, add to it, delete from it and how to refresh an idea.”
The program always has space for more prospective business owners as there are about 20 attendees for the courses this year. In past years, there have been 25 people and their biggest turnout was about 40 for a franchising workshop last year.
Washington has hopes to get more people involved to help grow the program, which is free to attend and is funded by the Queens Library.
Washington said that next month, they are going to focus workshops on Facebook to help people use social media to grow their business.
“We’re working on getting the word out in a big way,” she said. “We want a robust, live virtual incubator in Jamaica, Queens.”
The Queens Library Central branch is located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica.
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, email@example.com or @jgibbons2.
When attending the small business workshop, come prepared with pen and paper, along with a thought out idea for a small business.
Having a specific business plan already worked out will help attendees get more out of the program.