Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center transitions after director resigns
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center in downtown Willmar is going through a transition. The center, which has assisted numerous small businesses in the area in getting started and growing, recently lost its executive director...
WILLMAR - The Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center in downtown Willmar is going through a transition.
The center, which has assisted numerous small businesses in the area in getting started and growing, recently lost its executive director and is going through a strategic planning process.
Idalia “Charly” Leuze, formerly director of the West Central Integration Collaborative, is the interim part-time director during the transition. She previously served on the center’s board of directors.
The former director Roberto Valdez resigned a couple months ago to devote more time to his entertainment rental business, Fiesta Time, and other ventures. “To hold a full-time job and run that, it just couldn’t be done anymore,” Leuze said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
The center has been successful in helping small businesses get off the ground. Advice from Valdez, Business Consultant Jeff Madsen and Financial Manager Leslie Kelly helped them build a good foundation and take care of the paperwork involved in owning a business.
According to information from the center last year, three-quarters of the businesses that consulted with the business center over the previous four years survived.
Nationally, about 80 percent of new businesses fail in their first year.
In 2013, five of the businesses working with the business center had gross revenue of more than $2 million.
In 2014, the business center created 17 full-time jobs last year at last count, Kelly said. There may be more, as some documentation is still in the works. Also, two construction companies that have worked with WAM-BC have fluctuating workforces.
Seven new businesses were created last year.
“We’re trying to focus on wage growth and building assets,” Kelly said.
The center recently received a $30,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation for operations and a $10,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to develop a better data management system to measure the impact of its work.
In addition to start-up advice, the center also has a micro-loan revolving loan program has helped a number of entrepreneurs get their small businesses started.
Its building is also an incubator for small businesses. Its commercial kitchen is used by the Azteca restaurant, and two construction companies have offices in the building.
The strategic planning will help the center examine its operation and move ahead with the search for a new director, but the overall goals aren’t likely to change.
“We really believe in what we’re doing here,” Leuze said. “Obviously we’re going to stick to what we’re doing, because it’s working.”
The center offers no-cost assistance to people whose income is low enough to qualify. For others, there is a small fee for assistance. The center’s services are available to anyone, regardless of ethnicity.
The center is currently working with a car dealership and restaurants and retail businesses. One new business is Diamond Entertainment, which offers party planning services.
The center offers technical assistance for new businesses, but that’s not all.
Some people, particularly if they are new to this country or new to running a business, have never had debt and have no credit history. The center helps them build a credit history - something they need to obtain financing for their businesses.
“It’s just so neat to see people come in here so excited,” Leuze said.