CATCH graduates first class


ST. PETERSBURG — Back in June, the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation (TBBBIC) launched its CATCH program — a 15-week business program designed to train business owners — and Nov. 3 celebrated its first graduating class at the Palladium.

“We could not do the work we are doing here in the Sunshine City, especially in south St. Petersburg, without them,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman in praising the efforts of the TBBBIC and its President and CEO Albert Lee.

The TBBBIC is a U.S. Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) dedicated to providing business and funding opportunities for the long-term growth and success of small businesses. The CATCH curriculum, created by FDIC in conjunction with the SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration), is designed to help business owners excel in their current businesses and provide new entrepreneurs with the skillset to develop their concepts into a business.

Kriseman called the members of the graduating class trendsetters and partners with the city of St. Pete.

“I am excited to watch as each of you takes the knowledge you have gained over these last several weeks and translates it into the real world, right here in the Sunshine City,” he said.

Lee thanked the participants of the program, noting that they all showed dedication to attending all the classes spanning the 15-week period. He also lauded the partners of the CATCH program, such as Foundation for Healthy St. Petersburg, Vision 20/20 and the City of St. Pete.

Lee and independent business consultant Tahisia Scantling, the program coordinator, handed out certificates to the graduating members.

“The certificate is just a small part,” Lee said. “That’s just something that shows that you went through the 15 weeks. The real part will be what you do after this. What you do after this will make a difference in this community.”

Lee told the graduates that they have no idea how or what kind of imprint they’ll make with the positivity that they showed as participants in this class and the people that they’ll be able to encourage.

“Other folks that see you will want to emulate you—those will be the lasting impacts, and many of those impacts we’ll never see and we’ll never know. But you can make that difference and I know you will,” he said.

Members of the 2016 graduating class included Michael Whiting, Loretta Calvin, Ortega Rutledge, Cheryl Walker, Jah’tia Haynes, Jamara Forbes, Michelle Williams, Dolores Givens, Renee Edwards and Lottie Cuthbertson.

Participants in the program received a $2,500 stipend to be used solely for the growth of their businesses, along with such benefits as business coaching and mentoring, networking opportunities and access to an onsite CPA for assistance with financials. After completion of the CATCH program, participants will also receive ongoing support for up to two years.

Ada McFarley, entrepreneur and CEO of Never Late Property Cleaning, offered words of encouragement to the graduating class. When she was passed over for a promotion at her job seven years ago, she told the crowd she decided to go to work for herself and start her own cleaning company.

“Working for yourself is one of the hardest things you will ever, ever do,” she said. “But working for yourself is so very rewarding. And as I introduce myself in any networking group, ‘I’m the proud owner of Never Late Property Cleaning,’” she added, stressing the pride in business ownership.

McFarley stressed that small business owners can do nothing without the help of their teams. If you have happy employees, she noted, you keep good clients.

“You have got to invest in your team!” she said, adding that it’s a “big deal” to be able to write a paycheck to employees and transform their lives.

The evening ended with a catered dinner provided by Heavy’s Food Truck.

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