Eight aspiring entrepreneurs graduated from the Southwest Florida MicroEnterprise program in the Cape last week.
The Southwest Florida MicroEnterprise Project is a training program to help emerging business-minded men and women start new ventures and grow small businesses, presented by Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida.
"This was our first program in Cape Coral," said Elliott Rittenhouse, director of MicroEnterprise at Goodwill. "With this class there are 23 graduates of the project who are residents of Cape Coral, and 13 of them are now in business."
June 2012 graduates Michael Hutchings, Chad Nunez, Tanesha Carhart, Michelle Andre, Kandace Nelson-Simmons, Lori Tabor-Randall and Tamara Stefanec (not pictured: Jose Clemente).
Graduates include Cape Coral residents Michelle Andre, Lori Tabor-Randall and Tamara Stefanec, and area residents Tanesha Carhart, Jose Clemente, Michael Hutchings, Chad Nunez and Kandace Nelson-Simmons.
Each received certificates symbolizing their completion of the six-week course. The courses, which are guided by local small business mentors, have been held at various locations across Southwest Florida.
"We especially would like to thank the Cape Coral Economic Development Office, who supplied the venue and marketing support," Rittenhouse said.
The ceremony was held in the Cape Coral City Hall complex.
"The outstanding commencement speaker was a very successful Cape Coral businessman, Michael Schneider-Christians," Rittenhouse said.
Several of the graduates had an opportunity to address the crowd. Rittenhouse said the event became emotional as Nelson-Simmons delivered a poem before receiving her completion certificate.
"Success can be contagious," she told her classmates.
Nelson-Simmons added that the MicroEnterprise class "has given me confidence in what I want to do and direction in what I want to pursue."
A former MicroEnterprise graduate was also celebrated at the ceremony. Tyrone Prescott of Lehigh Acres was awarded a $2,500 business start-up grant for his electrical contractor business. The check was presented by Ann Arnall, director of the Lee County Department of Human Services.
In the two years since the MicroEnterprise program has started, the program has graduated 87 aspiring entrepreneurs, more than 25 of whom have started their business ventures.
"The next class is in Lehigh Acres and starts Aug. 14. There are still spots available. Go to our website to apply," Rittenhouse said.
The program is administrated by Goodwill with additional support provided by the Cape Coral Economic Development Office, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center, Edison State College, Fifth Third Bank, Florida Community Bank and Lee County Department of Human Services.
Other supported programs include Goodwill Job-Link centers, the Four Wheels For Work vehicle assistance program, the SWFL MicroEnterprise project, and income-sensitive housing for people with disabilities.
To learn more about the Southwest Florida MicroEnterprise project, visit goodwillswfl.org/microenterprise or call Rittenhouse at 995-2106, extension 2215.