The 2017 CATCH program graduated 10 entrepreneurs Tuesday, April 25 at Empath Health.
BY GRACE CUNNINGHAM, Neighborhood News Bureau
ST. PETERSBURG – The Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp.’s (TBBBIC) CATCH small business program graduated its second cohort April 25. The ceremony was held at Empath Health, 3050 First Ave S, and celebrated the progress of each graduate as they were joined by friends, family, community leaders and business owners.
This year, 10 entrepreneurs and business owners graduated from the CATCH program – which stands for Coachable, Action-oriented, Timely, Collaboration and Help. These skills and qualities are instilled in the program’s participants throughout the 16-week course. Upon completion, a $2,500 check is handed out to those who stuck with it.
“This is an awesome program for an entrepreneur that’s really looking to advance their business,” Tahisia Scantling, CATCH coordinator and independent business consultant said.
According to Scantling, the program was born from the realization that small business owners are not necessarily only in need of financial assistance, but also training. In partnership with the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, the TBBBIC expanded its community development services by debuting the program last year.
By the end of the course, participants developed mission statements and elevator speeches, created vision boards and learned fundamental skills such as how to use QuickBooks, an accounting program. Graduates were also required to practice using Facebook as a networking and collaboration tool.
In addition to bringing in speakers and local leaders to mentor participants, CATCH also provides great opportunities for network building.
“I have met a lot of influential people that have helped me be able to perfect my craft,” Tiffany Moore, CEO of Moore Eventful, said. “CATCH is a great program for any startup entrepreneur. It has been wonderful for me.”
These networks were on display throughout the night, as past and present graduates were recruited to help put on the event. Photographer Jamara Forbes participated in the inaugural class last year, and this year she was the official event photographer for the graduation. Moore provided custom decorations through her business, an event planning and decorating company, making her experience with CATCH instantly applicable.
“It has allowed me opportunities to show people my work so that I can possibly get other work in the future,” Moore said.
Even participants who had already earned business degrees had something to gain from the CATCH program’s unique and immersive approach. Leslie Coley, owner of Dyvine Appointments Salon, mentioned she was unsure of what she could learn but quickly came to understand the value of the program.
“Coming into that program with much skepticism, they just blew my mind with all of the knowledge that I received,” Coley said.
The program covers a wide range of topics, such as agenda planning, time management and tax preparation. Also, like Moore, Coley expressed her gratitude for the relationships built over the 16-week period.
“The connections that we made were just awesome,” Coley said. “I’ve got lifetime friends now, and I’m looking forward to going to the next level in my business.”
Coley noted the importance of the support system developed between participants, and how she made sure to never miss a class – no matter the circumstances.
The guest speakers at the graduation echoed the importance of lifelong learning and community connections. Kenneth Stewart, president of Tampa-based Integrated Security Consultants, told the graduates to look ahead with the attitude that there is always something to learn.
Mayor Rick Kriseman, representing the City of St. Petersburg as a co-sponsor of the program, also spoke to the graduates and told them about the community as a resource.
“You are doing more than investing in a business, you’re investing in the community,” Kriseman said.
Renee Edwards, owner of Skin Kandii and a 2016 graduate of the CATCH program, spoke to attendees and likened the process of starting and growing a business to learning to ride a bicycle. Though daunting at first, the CATCH program gives participants the push they need – they just have to keep pedaling.
From here, the 2017 graduates will continue 18 months of monthly meetings to track their progress and continue growing their businesses. They received the push, and now they look forward to the future.
Business owners and entrepreneurs can start applying to join the next group of CATCH participants by visiting tampabaybbic.com and downloading an application.