The Business Center Celebrates Over 20 Years of Mentorship and Small Business Education In The Philadelphia AreaFeb 19, 2021 08:00AM ● By Kassidy Garland
In 1999, The Business Center operates as a 501(c)(3) and was co-founded by Pamela Rich-Wheeler, MBA, who is currently the Executive Director. After leaving DuPont, Rich-Wheeler decided her expertise was best used to serve her community. Using her knowledge of essential business practices, she started educating others. The Business Center helps black and brown-owned, women-owned startups, as well as existing small businesses and nonprofits based in low-income communities, with starting a business and networking.
For over 20 years, The Business Center, known as “The Business Connector'' by its members, has followed the credo, “Building our community one entrepreneur at a time”. Their mission is to equip adults and youth with the tools to start, sustain, and expand their enterprises.
The Business Center (TBC) is supported by financial institutions of the community such as Santander, Wells Fargo, PNC, State Farm, Customers Bank, and Alston Beech Foundation; government officials and agencies- city council members, state representatives, senators, The Philadelphia Department of Commerce, Local 332, and other businesses including the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, and the School District of Philadelphia.
TBC provides a number of programs, services, and courses to create the best possible relationship with their clients and other businesses in the community. More than 800 adults and youth have completed TBC’s entrepreneurship courses each year, with 25 percent of these participants seeking on-going consulting services through the organization.
(TBC Executive Director, Pamela Rich-Wheeler)
Among their list of programs are Communiversity, One-On-One Coaching, and Youth Entrepreneurship. These programs cater to underserved adults and youth. The courses are available multiple times a year with experienced professional instructors. Some of the courses have a fee. However, scholarships and financial aid are available to those who qualify.
One of the courses offered by the Communiversity is a twelve-week business plan course. One learns the basics of business. The Business Plan Course reviews business feasibility and fundamentals, discusses advanced management strategies, and culminates with writing a full-fledged business plan.
With Communiversity courses, entrepreneurs can also enroll in the Social Media Blueprint course. In the course, participants learn how to use social media to market their business, create a marketing plan, and find help with loans and grants. Currently, all courses and workshops are being held virtually due to the ongoing health crisis.
Philadelphia is a large city well-known for its history and culture. It possesses a large population of creatively innovative youth and young adult entrepreneurs. The Business Center recognizes this population and is making the group a priority this year and moving forward. TBC will maintain close relationships with these young individuals, connect them with resources in the surrounding community, and aid in their growth, education, and the support of those around them. FunTimes spoke with four alumni of The Business Center who continue to receive assistance in growing their businesses and financial goals.
According to Jelani Wheeler, a former student, and current Youth Entrepreneurship instructor, the business classes make a world of difference in a young person’s life. Mr. Wheeler explains that as a young man, he had no interest in the program. Now a fourth-year student at Florida A&M University studying Public Relations, Wheeler thanks God for the parents that he had. He believes that without them, he would never have had the confidence to move forward and pursue his career plans as a professional vocalist.
Wheeler balances his own course load with the classes that he teaches for The Business Center. Currently, he is working with high school students at Parkway Northwest in Philadelphia. In this multi-week course, Wheeler teaches high school students about business and entrepreneurial skills.
Wheeler explains that The Business Center does more than just teach kids about business, it teaches them to use their business to pursue their passions in life. While he studies Public Relations, his true passion is music. While currently building his own EP, Wheeler has been utilizing the skills that he learned in his classes at The Business Center to meet with investors, budget properly for the project, and create relationships with others in his field.
As an alumnus of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program, Nailah Wheeler, a freshman at Xavier University, is using the skills she learned to provide extra income in school braiding hair. She also teaches at TBC’s Youth & Money Camp during the summer. As a peer instructor, Nailah Wheeler teaches students that were once in her shoes about money and how to best prepare for their future.
Nailah Wheeler explains that during the week-long summer camp, students are encouraged to plan a business, whether it’s a service or product. Over the course of the week, the young people in the program learn about business practices, such as writing a business plan. At the end of the week, the participants present their business plan to a group of investors, which are made up of local business people, sponsors, and board members who have experience in the field of finance.
Miss Wheeler additionally shared that after the end of the program, students and their parents have the opportunity to join as a member of The Business Center. With this membership, students are able to take their business plans even further. When The Business Center holds a sales event in the community, the students are contacted and participate. Whether they bake cakes, provide a service, or sell products, The Business Center makes all members aware of potential opportunities for their businesses to grow.
Christine Crochet on Facebook
Kennedy Broughton is another young woman who benefitted from her time with The Business Center. She explains that what she learned from her time with The Business Center has helped her grow her business, Christine Crochet 2020. Ms. Broughton began her work with The Business Center when she was about 7 years old, and she has continued through to this day. She is now 24 years old. At the suggestion of her mom, Kennedy took part in the Youth & Money Program. It was there that she decided to turn the skills her grandmother taught her into a business.
Under the tutelage of instructors at The Business Center, Ms. Broughton learned how to market her needlework and handmade products through social media. She also learned the importance of creating those connections with her potential customers. Through social media, Miss Broughton can connect with her customers, accept orders for hats, scarves, blankets, and masks, which have been very popular in the past year. When asked about her goals for the upcoming year, Broughton explained that she plans to utilize her social media, website, and relationship with The Business Center to grow her business.
Another participant of the Youth & Money Camp, Shamar Stokes has also grown his entrepreneurial aspirations. At the young age of 17, Mr. Stokes learned how to build a business website, use social media as a marketing tool, and create business relationships throughout the community. Now 21, Mr. Stokes has built Shamar’s Credit Rebuilding, and a mentor program to teach young people, business owners, and young adults looking to make mature financial decisions in life, about credit, debt, and loans.
Pamela Rich-Wheeler, Executive Director of The Business Center, stated "I am so proud of our young business leaders and young entrepreneurs. I see our team providing technical assistance to young enterprises of color, who will then serve as a catalyst for innovation and growth for the Philadelphia economy. TBC will assist these young businesses by connecting them to private capital markets and exposing them to examples of successful management practices and potential mentors, so they can have a seat at the economic table."
If you are interested in learning more about starting and growing a business, money management, and creating long-lasting professional relationships, look no further than The Business Center - thebizctr.com. Contact the office at 215-247-2473 or [email protected]; 7500 Germantown Avenue; New Covenant Campus; Elders Hall, Suite 113, Philadelphia, 19119.
Kassidy Garland has had a great appreciation for reading and writing since she was young. She graduated from West Chester University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English & Women and Gender Studies. With a concentration in creative writing, Kassidy has 5 years of experience writing blogs, articles, and for social media. Based out of Philadelphia, Kassidy loves to write about a number of topics and looks forward to sharing her passion with those at FunTimes Magazine.