Is it your dream to open a small business? Looking for ways to strengthen a company you already run? Look no further.

Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida is currently enrolling for its upcoming Microenterprise class.

For six weeks starting April 15, a team of successful business owners and business planning specialists will lead a course with the goal of teaching budding entrepreneurs what steps they need to take to make it in their industries.

“Anyone who has a good business idea or existing business is welcome to apply. If they have prepared a business plan, they can also apply,” said Sandra Plazas, program manager for Community Education at Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida.

“Through enhanced classroom approach, the 12-module curriculum methodically works individuals through determining the feasibility of their business idea and help them develop a basic business plan to support the start up. Some individuals who have already started a business also take the course because they are struggling, have not legitimatized their business yet and wish to do so, or recognize that they need more intensive planning to grow the business.”

Goodwill began offering the courses back in 2013 and has completed 12 sessions so far, graduating 104 students.

From that, they’ve seen 64 small businesses started or strengthened locally.

Brenda Anderson is just one of the program’s success stories.

“Brenda, owner of Teddy Inc., graduated from the program in 2017. She specializes in engraving and monogramming and was working out of her home during the class. Her dream was to open a shop in Port Charlotte, and after year and half of persistence and hard work, she opened her shop in October of 2018,” Plazas said.

“We don’t always have participants who are able to open a store front, but a lot of them do work from home.”

The course, according to Plazas, can easily be applied to any business or product idea and experts are brought in to present and speak to students from a variety of different backgrounds — from law and accounting to social media — to ensure a well-rounded education on owning a small business.

“We use this phrase a lot in our classes and it can be applied to anyone who has a few months or few years in business: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’” Plazas said, highlighting exactly why the experts are needed.

Their mission, according to Plazas, is to reach out specifically to aspiring entrepreneurs who struggle with low to moderate income or are facing other disadvantages.

In fact, the courses typically run $80 per participant to cover things like textbook fees; however, this coming semester’s cost is being waived to better attract people in the community.

For other sessions, individual who do not meet a certain income level can also take the class for free if they complete eight hours of volunteer work in their chosen field.

Anyone 18 years or older is welcome to apply to the program – those as young as 16 can also apply if a parent or guardian attends with them.

The spring course runs April 15 to May 23 and meets two nights a week – Monday and Thursday – at Charlotte Technical College from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

For more information, visit www.goodwillswfl.org/microenterprise or call Plazas at 239-995-2106, ext. 2304.

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