Small Business Development Program
A group of six small business owners from South St. Petersburg comprised the inaugural class of the Anchors Collaborative’s Small Business Development Program. With a goal of scaling and growing their businesses, they gathered each week for expert coaching on topics including handling administrative duties like bookkeeping and financial statements, writing business plans, conducting competitor analyses, building and leveraging relationships, and so much more.
Read on to learn more about these local entrepreneurs, what they learned, and what they plan to do next.
Stephen Charles, Ay Wash LLC
Haitian American Stephen Charles launched his fleet washing business in July 2023 after a serendipitous conversation at a coffee shop. A self-described ‘newbie’ in the entrepreneurial space, Charles is passionate about giving back to community. He donates 10% of the gross proceeds he earns from power washing commercial vehicles to local nonprofits and has a goal of helping fellow immigrants thrive in their new Florida communities by connecting them with housing, job training, language classes, and more.
“The program definitely opened my eyes up to a world I didn’t even know existed. I learned about so many opportunities that small businesses can leverage to grow themselves,” Charles said.
Specifically, Charles says he plans to apply for his minority-owned business certification in the next several months and has already started taking advantage of vendor networking opportunities he discovered during the course of the program.
“My next step is definitely to work on getting certified and building up my base. I’m also looking at subcontracting from other vendors, just saying hey, we do the same thing, if you ever need any help, we’re here,” he said. “This program helped me see how to build a firm foundation.”
Cheronda Davis, Tunnel Vision Marketing Elite
Cheronda Davis has designed logos you can see all over town – on real estate flyers, ads for gourmet food services, or even the Catalyst on the Deuces. As the founder and owner of Tunnel Vision Marketing Elite, she knows a lot about her industry. Through the Small Business Development Program, she gained skills and knowledge about running a business, as well.
“I think the course will help me take my business to the next level of where I need it to be,” Davis said. “It was great to get personalized tips, great mentorship and guidance from people.”
As a result of the course, Davis has revamped her pricing structure to better reflect the value she believes she brings to her work.
“That’s something I’ve struggled with because I want to be affordable to people,” she said.
She’s also updated her business plans and has a goal of bidding on larger contracts in the year ahead.
“I’m also looking to do more graphic design and branding work for local businesses,” she said. “In 2024, I’d love to find an actual brick-and-mortar location and be able to hire administrative support.”
Nancy Dunham, Fancy Nancy Professional Services
Fancy Nancy Dunham is a certified loan signing agent, process server, and notary public who can also do LiveScan/ink fingerprinting, background screenings, VIN and I9 verifications, and so much more. A U.S. Army veteran with more than 18 years of experience, Dunham incorporated her business in 2018.
The biggest benefit of the Small Business Development Program, in Dunham’s eyes, was getting hands-on instruction on how to take advantage of opportunities she had heard about previously but didn’t know how to access.
“Certifications were a big thing for me. I knew they existed, but didn’t know how to get them done,” she explained. “Now, my business is certified as woman-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned at every level – and I’ve paid it forward by helping other people in the community go through the certification process, too.”
Dunham recently secured a contract doing fingerprinting for the Pinellas County School District. Now that her business is certified, she’s hoping to take on additional contracts to help stabilize and grow her client base. To do that, she’s hoping to access capital so that she can scale her capacity.
“I would love to have a contract with one of the area’s hospitals or major businesses to do background checks and fingerprinting or serve as a notary,” she said. “My next step is figuring out how I can scale my business. I have the business plan and vision; I just need additional capital to implement it.”
Jocelyn Kimble, Body by Ja
Jocelyn Kimble, the co-founder and driving force behind Body by Ja, has a passion for beauty, wellness, and holistic self-improvement. She offers a specialized line of all-natural facial and body care products that are “backed by scientific principles and years of experience in the field.”
“If you take care of your skin, it’s going to take care of you – if I make you feel good about the outer appearance, you’ll feel good about yourself and can go conquer the world,” Kimble explained. “So that’s what Body by Ja does.”
Based on guidance she received during the Small Business Development Program, Kimble worked to revamp her business’ website to better reflect her vision and offerings. She woke up the next morning to new orders, which motivated her to keep going with her improvements.
The class also helped her better understand the administrative side of running a business – like bookkeeping, registering with the state, selecting the right insurance – and boost her networking skills.
“I’ve gotten a couple of contracts because of networking that out of that class, and it made me change my whole mindset,” Kimble said. “[Facilitator] Elizabeth Siplin made things feel attainable, and she held us accountable. I think it’s the extra care that motivates you more – she was so accessible and willing to help me get what I need for my business. She created an atmosphere that let you know you can succeed if you do the work. One step at a time, in due time, it will all come together.”
Whitney and Andre Sanchez, Zola Zula Solutions, LLC
Cleaning is a sacred job to Whitney Sanchez, founder of the Zola Zola Solutions cleaning services.
“I love the outcome of it. It’s an energy thing for me. I know what a clean home or clean work environment can do to people’s spirits, and I love helping our clients live lighter and feel good in their spaces,” she explained.
While the core of their current customer base is residential, Sanchez and her husband Andre are looking to grow the commercial cleaning side of their business. In fact, armed with what they learned in the Small Business Development Program, the duo just landed a major commercial contract for a 27,000-square-foot facility.
“The program was awesome – very informative, very eye-opening. It let us see what we needed to do to get our ducks in a row and elevate our business to get on that Forbes magazine cover like we plan to do,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez is currently working on getting her woman- and minority-owned business certifications. She’s also been working on more intentionally managing her cash flow so that she can better plan for needed growth and make sure her expenditures match her goals and needs.
“Our goal for 2024 is to add more clients to our existing business and develop a team that works for us, so we can work on our business and not necessarily always in it,” she said. “That growth will allow us to help the community, as well.”
To learn more about Zola Zula Solutions and their commercial and residential cleaning services, email ZolaZulaSolutions@yahoo.com or call 727-758-1113.
Guided by facilitator Liz Siplin of Empact Solutions, our Anchors Collaborative’s Small Business Development Program cohort received mentoring and guidance from a roster of local business leaders like entrepreneur Amber Calhoun; Esther Matthews of All Administrative Solutions; Izabella James of James Insurance Solutions; Christopher Hackney and Hannah Layton of BayFirst/Credit Bench; accountant Jodi Chemes; lawyer Austin Chambers; and procurement specialist Yolanda Cowart.