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Building Small Business With Jefferson Economic Development Institute

08/21/2015 08:40AM ● By Sue Ralston

Jedi Training

September 2015
By Sue Ralston

Mount Shasta's Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI) may be one of the best-kept secrets in the North State. With the mission of increasing the economic wellbeing of rural communities through business development, JEDI offers business classes, one-on-one counseling, online webinars and workshops.

“We’ve got a name that everyone recognizes and a brand that nobody understands,” says Executive Director Nancy Swift. “JEDI cares about people as individuals and about their economic growth. Our measure of success is when we see people excelling, engaged, making choices based on real information about how this fits in their life.”

Swift, a 20-year resident of Mount Shasta, co-founded the organization and has a background in microenterprise development for women. She enjoyed years of freedom to hike, ski and travel freely before she and her husband adopted two little girls, ages 5 and 6½, from Ethiopia. “And I certainly have a greater understanding and compassion now for women who are working and raising their families.”

JEDI’s territory has recently grown beyond Siskiyou County with its recent designation as a Women’s Business Center by Small Business Administration. With that comes federal funding and an expansion of services to Shasta, Trinity and Humboldt counties. The designation also allowed JEDI to hire a new full-time program manager in July. Says Sher Barber: “It’s so wonderful to be joining an organization focused on helping our economic development, and especially focused on women in business. I feel locally owned business development is the best model for rural America in growing the new businesses and thus, greater employment possibilities.”

More than one-third of all businesses in the United States are started by women, but they still face unique obstacles. Women typically receive a tiny fraction of available funding. And while JEDI does not limit its services to women entrepreneurs, it does serve more of them. “One of the reasons I’m in this is women’s empowerment. My passion is around women and their access to information and resources,” says Swift. She advocates developing the person, who develops a business and, possibly, jobs. Swift notes that 90 percent of employers in Siskiyou County are businesses with 10 employees or fewer. “So you really have to look at the owner. The business will only be as successful as the type of person who’s the owner and the resources they can garner.”

After presenting at a Women’s Fund entrepreneurship forum in Redding in January, Swift reached out to Shasta County residents interested in the services JEDI offers. For the first time, the It’s Your Business course was offered in Redding. The normally 10-week series was altered to fit into four Saturdays, a format that will be repeated in the fall.

Structural engineer Catherine Low, who is starting her own company, gained valuable knowledge and inspiration from the course. “I came away from the class feeling really confident,” she says. At the end of the series, she had a basic business plan in place, including a mission statement, cash flow projections and a tighter definition of her core product: advance analysis. “It’s made a huge impact on my business plan, going through these steps.”

Classes are not just for those in the beginning or exploratory stage of entrepreneurship. The Power Up Your Business program helps established entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level, offering more detailed training and coaching. Other workshops and webinars include Cash Flow & Financial Goal Setting, Meet the Lenders, Social Media for Business, Sales Tax Explained by the Board of Equalization, Contracting with the Federal Government and Women’s Business Certification. Some are based in Siskiyou County and some are by webinar.

“We believe that entrepreneurs are the bravest people in our economy, especially in this post-recession era,” says Swift. “Risk is calculated and we want to help people with the information they need to take these calculated risks.”
Jefferson Economic Development Institute • 205 Chestnut St., Mount Shasta
(530) 926-6670 • (888) 926-6670 •
Women in Business Leadership Day, Sept. 30 in Redding