LIFTOFF class graduates to start local businesses

Published 4:19 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The CentreWorks LIFTOFF class graduated its entrepreneurs on May 11, who will go on to start local businesses with the knowledge they gained from the class.

LIFTOFF teaches entrepreneurship skills to both Centre College students and community members who want to start their own business. Centre students work in teams with entrepreneurs to help develop their business ideas.

Led by Anthony and Andrea Margida, directors of CentreWorks, this recent class is the fourth one they’ve taught. It was done virtually during the pandemic, and this semester was the first they’ve taught it in person.

This semester was also the first time the class was taught in Spanish in addition to English. Centre students were able to translate each lesson to several Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs, and also acted as translators in conversations and empathy interviews.

Entrepreneurs usually come in with a tentative business idea they want to develop. The Margidas teach them to conduct empathy interviews with people in the community, which allows them to learn about local people’s specific wants and needs.

The interviews help students define a problem that their business will solve. Once defined, students brainstorm business ideas to solve the problem. Then they test the ideas and gather feedback from the community, then come up with final prototypes.

Each group presented their prototypes at the graduation. The entrepreneurs and student teams who graduated are as follows:

IldeFonso Rodriguez – El Taller

L to R: IldeFonso Rodriguez, who is starting El Taller, student on his team Sol Cabrera, with Andrea and Anthony Marida. Photo by Fiona Morgan

Before moving to Kentucky, IldeFonso Rodriguez worked on cars in Mexico. He continued working on cars in Kentucky, and decided to open a car workshop.

His business is called El Taller, which translates to “The Workshop.” He worked with Centre student Sol Cabrera, who acted as a translator.

Through empathy interviews, they learned that people want cleanliness, honesty, accessibility, and quality in an auto shop. As a solution, El Taller will have good organization of the workshop, will send real-time pictures of work when being done, offer promotions, ensure quality, utilize Facebook for good communication, among other things.

Chris Claunch  – Centro Latino

L to R: Student Team Kasey Montgomery and Cole Arendsen making their final presentation with Chris Claunch, who is director of Centro Latino. Photo by Fiona Morgan

Rather than starting a new business, Chris Claunch wanted to work on improving Centro Latino, which is a non-profit that helps the local Latino community get access to educational, health, and social justice information. She joined Centro Latino in 2010, and became director last year.

She has witnessed Spanish immigrants and non-immigrants have trouble getting access to those resources, and she said she joined the organization because the Spanish community in Danville and surrounding areas contributes to the economy.

Working with students Kasey Montgomery and Cole Arendsen, they conducted empathy interviews to learn how Centro Latino can better help people find resources for sustainable living. They learned it would be most helpful to have a central location, both online and a physical location.

While the organization already has a website, they would add videos of how to do things in town like get a driver’s license, apply for a FAFSA, etc. Claunch said they also need to utilize technology more and raise awareness of the organization.

Martha Francisco – Martha’s Home Care Services

L to R: Student Team Kali Hernandez Fraire; Martha Francisco, who is starting Martha’s Home Care Services; with Andrea and Anthony Marida. Photo by Fiona Morgan

Martha Francisco has been living here and working in house services for 18 years, and wanted to start her own service. Francisco does all types of services; she babysits, takes care of dogs, does grocery shopping, gives rides, and cleans.

She worked with Kali Hernandez Fraire to find out what community members want. They learned people want honesty, comfort, and safety in a home service; they want to know and trust whoever’s serving them.

Francisco will conduct empathy interviews with clients before they hire her for a job, to build trust and determine what services they need. Her kids will be able to translate.

Her value statement is: “People choose my services because I listen, I observe, and provide personalized care, management and cleaning services.”

Radonna Bredar and Ansley Bredar – Rae’s Bouquets

L to R: Student Team Connor Foster and Mril Dsilva; with Ansley Bredar and Radonna Bredar, who started Rae’s Bouquets; with Andrea and Anthony Marida. Photo by Fiona Morgan

Mother and daughter team, Radonna and Ansley Bredar, started Rae’s Bouquets in Danville a few years ago. Starting with creating bouquets for friends’ weddings, the business grew and took on a life of its own, according to the Bredars. They wanted to learn how to grow the business intentionally through the class.

Working with students Connor Foster and Mril Dsilva, they learned that people in this community want personal touch, affordable options for their budget, and they like using a local service.

To meet people’s needs, the Bredars will create relationships with clients, have expectation meetings with clients, allow customization in the bouquets, have good local quality, and utilize social media regularly. Rae’s Bouquets makes flowers for any event or holiday, and already has a website, Facebook, and Instagram page.

Irma Perez – Irma’s Jarochita

L to R: Student team Jorge Trejo Fernandez and Callie Zeron with Irma Perez, who is starting Irma’s Jarochita; with Andrea and Anthony Margida. Photo by Fiona Morgan

Irma Perez, who is from Mexico, loves making authentic Mexican food and wants to start a restaurant that would accentuate her culture. Throughout the class, Perez brought in some of her homemade food for students to try. Jarochita is a type of dress that people from her hometown in Mexico wear.

Working with students Jorge Trejo Fernandez and Callie Zeron, they learned from 20-25 interviews that people in this community want culturally true Hispanic food that is economical, tasteful, and ready in a timely manner but is not “fast food.”

Perez will work to provide food that is both authentic and affordable, will utilize electronic payment, possibly in the form of apps, and post a detailed menu on her Facebook page.

• Entrepreneur Mandy Emmons worked with student Emily Heasley, whose presentation is forthcoming.

• Entrepreneur Claudia Greaeiones’ presentation is also forthcoming.

The CentreWorks LIFTOFF class of entrepreneurs and Centre students graduated. Photo by Fiona Morgan.