Hygrade Precision Technology, LLC sought help from CTSBDC in finding alternative lending sources. Hiring, training, and retaining employees was also on the radar.
"Having an independent advocate, such as a business advisor from CTSBDC, can help solve tough challenges. It's free help that has access to a lot of information."
CTSBDC Business Advisor Denise Whitford provided owner Pedro Soto with useful information regarding the New England Trade Adjustment Assistance Center Grant Funding and short-term financing from the Community Economic Development Fund, a local CDFI. Denise explains “Pedro originally came to the SBDC for help navigating the EIDL and PPP programs, when the entire world was in the throes of COVID- 19, which was a few short months after he purchased the business.” Denise notes that Pedro's focus on stabilizing his operations and keeping his team moving forward is what struck her most.
Her entrepreneurial spirit led Karen Williams to create two restaurants in New York City. The Big Apple was a great place to do business, but Karen decided that the ability to have a larger facility to develop the food products that she sold in her restaurant - which Connecticut afforded - was appealing.
She turned to Connecticut Small Business Development Center for help with financing her move to Connecticut. She was paired with CTSBDC Advisor Michelle (Shelly) Koehler to make it happen.
"Working with an CTSBDC Business Advisor gives you the sense and feeling of working with a partnership without paying them."
Shelly guided Karen from the inception of her food production business through the search for financing.
Chef K Inc. makes ginger, sorrel, turmeric, and assorted flavors of natural drinks without preservatives or additives. The company’s mission is to create a safe, healthy, and tasty product by using natural ingredients, organically grown, and applying innovative manufacturing techniques to extract all nutrients.
Jane Moen, owner of A Little Compassion, needed help to learn how to create and run both a nonprofit and a business venture such as a coffee shop. The goal of the company was to create employment and social opportunities for young adults with autism (ASD) and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The Nest Coffee House operates as a for-profit subsidiary under A Little Compassion Inc. (ALC), a nonprofit organization committed to transforming the lives of young adults with disabilities. At ALC they understand that finding your place in the world can be tough and it is even tougher for a young adult with autism, an intellectual or developmental disability. ALC has set out to make that journey smoother by creating employment and social opportunities for these young adults in our midst who need an opportunity to shine.
"Their (CTSBDC Business Advisors) ability to access information to guide you is top notch."
CTSBDC Business Advisor Jim Jackson provided valuable guidance on accessing data related to traffic patterns in Deep River, Connecticut. Additionally, Jim offered one-on-one assistance in various aspects, including budgeting, pricing out food and beverage options, and creating a comprehensive staffing plan. He was not the only advisor in building up Jane’s dream, CTSBDC Business Advisor Mary Kay Della Camera helped Jane to determine that a not-for-profit organization was the likely best structure for the core organization and ability to raise money. Jim played an integral role in helping Jane determine how to incorporate revenue generation to support the mission of the organization. This resulted in Jane deciding to set up a for-profit component for her initiative.
“Jane came to the CTSBDC with both a mission and a dream. She was determined to fill a gap in the social and employment opportunities available to young adults on the autism spectrum in the lower CT River Valley area. She had a clear picture of what the facility could be, but not what had to be done to bring it to fruition.”, comments Jim.
In 2022, Jim Jackson worked with Jane on questions involving putting together a challenging budget as well as developing a plan to create a secondary product called Doggy Barks, a dog treat based on used whole grain from local micro-breweries and peanut butter. In 2023 Jim continued to support Jane on preparing her grant application for the Middlesex County Revitalization Commission Business Operating Grant as well as some other general questions she had about the day-to-day operations of the business.
The Nest Coffee House has grown into a gathering place for the entire community with average monthly sales of $15,000, which is increasing each month. Nest Coffee House employs 14 individuals, 90% of whom are young adults with disabilities. The product Jim assisted with, Doggy Barks, is currently on sale in 17 stores around the area. Jane Moen has successfully achieved her goal of a mission-driven organization to help individuals, supported in part with revenue from a for-profit enterprise.
“Jim Jackson was the perfect teacher, coach, and counselor for me.”, says Jane.
Young adults with autism (ASD) and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) face daunting barriers in finding and keeping meaningful work as well as in becoming active members of their community. 80-90% of individuals with ASD or IDD are unemployed. In the next decade, over 500,000 young adults with ASD will age out of high school and its supportive services into adulthood without a safety net.