New business helps entrepreneurs past startup phase

New business helps entrepreneurs past startup phase

Andrew Johnson The Arizona Republic
Jun. 27, 2007 06:04 PM

Emily Rukanzakanza always had aspirations of starting her own business, and she set out to do just that shortly after leaving her home country of Zimbabwe for the United States.

Rukanzakanza came to Arizona in 1996, obtained a nursing diploma from Maricopa Skill Center and formed Caring Team Nursing Services LLC from her Phoenix home in 2000. The company places nursing assistants in health facilities.

But as is the case with most bootstrapping entrepreneurs, Rukanzakanza's path to business ownership has been wrought with potholes, the most challenging of which has been financing her startup and monitoring her cash flow.

But now, the immigrant turned entrepreneur is poised to get assistance in obtaining some much-needed funding. It will come via a recently formed business incubator that is focused on growing service-based companies.

New Vision Industries Business Incubator is a new type of program for the Valley. Traditionally, such outreach efforts have focused on technology and bioscience firms, ignoring the largest portion of the metropolitan Phoenix's business community: the service industry.

Home-based business owners like Rukanzakanza are one of the program's primary targets, said Michelle Brown, regional vice president of business programs and services for Enterprise Development Group, the Chicago-based company that owns the incubator.

In addition to business coaching and financial counseling, New Vision Industries also plans to provide up to 5,000 square feet of office space to participants who want to expand out of their home offices.

The incubator is currently leasing about 3,000 square feet of space in an office building at 4747 N. Seventh St. in Phoenix, and has the ability to lease more space as it accepts more businesses into the program.

Businesses accepted into the program will pay $550 per month, which gives them a 300-square-foot office, use of office equipment, administrative assistance, a 180-day business development program, one-on-one counseling and other services.

The incubator has a budget of about $250,000, Brown said.

New Vision is also offering a virtual program in which participants can get access to the same services minus a permanent office for $225 per month.

Brown said the incubator plans to graduate 20 businesses this year – 10 from the onsite program and 10 from the virtual program.

Rukanzakanza, whose business places nursing assistants in long-term-care centers and other health facilities, said her biggest concern is finding money to grow her company.

Because of how she structures her business, it is difficult making ends meet. She receives payment from the health care facilities she has workers in, and in return, she pays the nurses. Often, there is a gap between when she receives payment from the facilities and when she has to pay her workers, she said.

Although the incubator does not provide financing directly, it plans to work with participants obtaining traditional bank financing and non-traditional forms of financing generally reserved for newer businesses. In the future, it also plans to establish its own microloan fund, Brown said.

Small-business counselor Susan Lentz said New Vision Industries is something that is needed in the Valley.

"We're a service-based economy, and service-based industry needs the same support as technology companies do," said Lentz, assistant director of Maricopa Community Colleges Small Business Development Center.

The center, which provides similar services to entrepreneurs, is partnering with the business incubator to provide programming and counseling to its participants.

To be accepted into New Vision Industries, an existing business must have been in operation for at least six months and be able to demonstrate the ability to grow, Brown said. The program will accept startups, but they must have a business idea that has a market.

"We try to help people regardless of circumstances," Brown said. "We want to get them past the startup phase."


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