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Program provides free training to small-business owners in Gary

Greater Gary Chamber Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes left joins Mayor Karen Freeman-WilsDGC Group DeardrGreen-Campbell Five Plus CEO Peter Justen

Greater Gary Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes, left, joins Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, DGC Group Deardra Green-Campbell and Five Plus CEO Peter Justen in explaining the Urban Enterprise Initiative Thursday at City Hall. The initiative will bring $250,000 in software training to up to 1,000 Gary small business owners. | Michelle L. Quinn/For Sun-Times Media

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The Urban Entrepreneur Initiative is from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 12 at the City Hall Annex building, 839 Broadway, Gary. For more information, go to www.gary.in.us/eventPrint.aspx?EventID=1617

Municipalities interested in the Five Plus/The Green-Campbell Group program should contact Five Plus CEO Peter Justen at pete@fiveplustrax.com.

Updated: September 24, 2013 6:28AM



GARY — A new initiative launched by the city will give up to 1,000 Gary entrepreneurs the financial know-how to run their businesses better.

The Urban Enterprise Initiative brings $250,000 worth of software licenses to small-business owners wanting to dig into their finances and figure out what they can be doing better or doing at all, said Pete Justen, CEO of Washington-based Five Plus who, along with The Green-Campbell Group principal Deardra Green-Campbell, is donating his software and training program. Using Quickbooks and a cloud dashboard app, businesses will be able to track 7,000 feeds that will help them make better financial decisions.

“The (Five Plus Trax) program is built for the nonfinancial person, and we use Quickbooks because it is the standard,” Justen said.

The program is free-of-charge to Gary residents when it kicks off Oct. 12, said Green-Campbell, a Gary native based in Atlanta who is donating a curriculum she developed called “Business Basics” to run concurrently with the app. The curriculum has successfully trained more than 17,000 entrepreneurs across the country and, by the end of the training, gives small-business owners the tools to write a comprehensive business plan.

Green-Campbell met Justen a few months ago, and the two brainstormed what they could do to help small-business owners, who Justen said are the backbone of the nation. She told him she wanted to help Gary first.

“I grew up in Elyria (Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland), and there were three Ford plants, U.S. Steel, American Ship. Now, it’s just like Gary, and it makes me mad. Entrepreneurship built this country, and it’s time to change (the economy) back to it.”

Justen also praised Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson for getting behind the effort.

“(The mayor) may not always do the fastest thing, but she does the right thing,” Justen said. “We’re not giving a handout but a hand up to the people who need it.”

The city is donating space at the City Hall Annex building at 839 Broadway to house the initiative, Freeman-Wilson said; for those who can’t make it in person that day, business owners can still take advantage of the training by webinar. The program’s cycles will last 10 weeks apiece, and those participating won’t be required to pay a fee for continuing the license, city spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said.

Gary Economic Development Corp., Gary Chamber of Commerce, ACCION and the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center are also participating in the initiative. Hussain Bhanpuri, a loan officer with ACCION, said its program, in Gary since February, is similar to the Urban Enterprise Initiative in many respects. It, however, is also a microlender to small businesses.

Nevertheless, Bhanpuri sees a synergy between the two.

“It’s all about outreach,” he said.

According the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses comprise 99.7 percent of employers and represent 49.2 percent of private-sector employment, Green-Campbell said. Small businesses also submit 16 times the number of patents per employee than their larger counterparts.



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