Starting your own business? Project Invest can help get you from investment to income

TRAVERSE CITY – Many people dream of owning their own business, but the procedure of starting a small business may seem so overwhelming they decide against it.

Project Invest, a program available to Northwest Michigan residents, could help make those dreams come true.

Project Invest is a small business development program. It's role is to help new business owners and prospective entrepreneurs plan and achieve their business goals.

The program accomplishes this by helping the prospective owner prepare and implement a business plan, which includes the basics of finance, marketing and management.

The main emphasis of Project Invest is the small business development series. Each course in the series consists of six teleclasses and one coaching session, a one on one mentoring program.

The series' four courses are: Managing Your Small Business, Marketing for the Small Business, Understanding Your Finances and Putting It All Together, a basic information to assemble a business plan.

Project Invest got its start in 1993 with private and public grant funding. Free classes were held for its low-income clients in a face-to-face classroom atmosphere under the direction of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG).

The council, started in 1973, represents 10 counties. They are: Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Wexford and Missaukee.

The NWMCOG has been involved in providing employment and training, economic development and regional planning resources to the businesses, communities and people of northwest Lower Michigan for 30 years.

Among the employment resources administrated by NWMCOG are the statewide Michigan Works, Northwest Michigan Works, the Workforce Development Administration and Project Invest.

Three years ago, it was decided not to seek further grant money for Project Invest, because the grant money held restrictions on the recipients who received the program. Instead, the council revised Project Invest and transitioned the program into the technology of teleclasses. At the same time the program was taken over by Dori Jamieson, who had been an employment counselor for 20 years with NWMCOG.

Jamieson now works out of the Michigan Works office in Traverse City.

She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Dayton in psychology and a master's degree from Central Michigan University in business.

Jamison received more than 200 hours of training in becoming a teleclass leader and small business coach. As director, she has spent the last three years developing and refining the program.

"A business, on the average, takes two years before it goes from an investment to a source of income," Jamieson said. "We can help the new business owner with our teleclasses."

A teleclass, using telephone bridge technology, is basically a conference call. Between 10 to 20 registrants for Project Invest call a regular phone number in the United States (normally in Las Vegas) at a specific class time and are welcomed by Jamieson, the teleclass leader.

The teleclass session is similar to regular college class dialogue with some lecture and questions, but with one difference – it's all from the comfort of a home or an office. Each class session lasts one hour.

A free one-hour class, the "A-B-C's of Small Business," provides an overview of what is needed to launch a small business, along with the opportunity to learn more about Project Invest.

Another course, "Self-Employment – Are You Ready?" teaches the basics of starting and managing a small business and consists of four class sessions, including coaching and technical assistance. In this class participants learn if business ownership is right for them. There is a fee of $99.

For the core of Project Invest, the small business development series, a prospective business owner may register for the series or take the courses separately. Each course costs $249.

Project Invest has helped start over 85 small businesses in the last three years. Some of the small business entrepreneurs Jamieson has worked with are a tattoo artist, an alpaca rancher, a small engine repairman, internet sales representatives, a photographer, house cleaners and antique dealers.

For more information, visit Project Invest at its web site or call Dori Jamieson at Michigan Works at (231)922-3715 and 1(800) 442-1074. BN