The non-profit organization hosts free workshops for entrepreneurs.
By Jason Lewis
Since 1981, the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC) has provided programs that have revitalized the economic community of South Los Angeles. This non-profit organization was established in 1979 as a citizen advisory committee by then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.
Since VSEDC’s inception, the organization has produced more than $60 million in physical development projects, and it has created more than 3,000 jobs.
VSEDC has provided services to over 500 small businesses in Los Angeles, such as Harold & Belle’s, Crenshaw Yoga & Dance, and Southern Girl Desserts, which is located at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
"Being a minority small business owner in the city of Los Angeles can at times feel like a daunting task,” said Jessica Legaux, co-owner of Harold & Belle’s. “The services that VSEDC provide are invaluable. Whether you are a business of one or one hundred, each business receives the same opportunities and exposure to resources. VSEDC provides the opportunities for small business owners to network, and share resources to help strengthen local businesses.”
VSEDC helps business owners secure funding to start and maintain companies, and the organization has workshops to to help entrepreneurs get started. There are workshops on lending, taxes, operations, marketing, social media, and many other subjects. The workshops and classes are at no charge. Students only have to pay for course materials.
The entrepreneurial training program starts off with a three-week Level I class, which assesses people’s business ideas, helps them set goals, and outlines a business plan. For students who want to continue with their business idea, the Level II class, which is eight-weeks long, discusses subjects such as raising capital, financial planning, marketing, sales strategies, and operation planning. By the end of the course, students will have a full business plan created.
“If you really come in, and you’re hungry, and you’re interested in using the services, it’s a really good place to start,” said Leslie Elliott, program administrator at VSEDC.
The courses gives an entrepreneur the foundation to succeed.
“It’s important to take these classes just so that you will know if you have something tangible, and something that people are willing to support and purchase,” Elliott said. “Plus it’s important to be prepared. A lot of people have a budget, and if you want to work within the budget, it requires you to use your resources accordingly. Our consultant Frank Sutton is always telling our clients that preparation is the key, and making sure that you have a strategy. So we encourage our clients to think, plan ahead, and to use the resources that are available. There will come a time when they may need lending, or when they will have to use their own funds. But it’s a better idea to start from a position of strength.”
VSEDC provides one-on-one sessions with their clients, as well as round-table discussions with local business owners. The organization has partnerships with several community-based organizations, which include Work Source Centers, the Urban League, West Angeles Church of God and Christ, and USC Supplier Diversity.