Months after business-building class graduated, here are two successes
SNOHOMISH — After graduating from a unique business program for disadvantaged clients, two entrepreneurs are making their mark locally.
For one, that mark is underground, for the other, on a cake stand.
Lauren Anderson, the owner and pastry chef of Grain Artisan Bakery, will soon be bringing her gourmet creations to a new storefront in Snohomish.
Harmony Jelinek, owner of Northsound Utility and Construction, is bringing underground utilities to clients throughout Snohomish and neighboring counties.
Both women graduated from the Ventures business basics program in 2018. Ventures is a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides training, funding assistance and mentorship for entrepreneurs with limited resources. The agency recently offered courses in Snohomish and Everett.
During their eight-week intensive program, the entrepreneurs were immersed in hands-on lessons in business creation, management, marketing and financing.
Both were motivated by their children to open their own business.
The bakery was inspired by an accident. Anderson’s spark came when she realized she forgot to order her one-year-old a birthday cake. When she whipped her little one up a zucchini cake and an assortment of gourmet cupcakes for guests, the bakeshop was born.
But while Anderson was a natural with pastries, marketing and financing were a struggle.
“It was not easy as a young single mom without a savings account,” the 25-year-old said.
For Jelinek, founding a business was also about family.
“Before I started this business I was working at a corporate job ... and wasn’t able to spend a lot of time with my little one. For me, starting a (company) was the best way to have freedom and flexibility in my life,” she said.
Jelinek had studied architecture and brought a construction management background to utilities.
“People don’t think about utilities until (toilets) don’t flush or there are puddles on the street,” she said, but for her, utilities are about connecting communities.
Anderson found Ventures after tasting success with her high-end organic creations during the Snohomish Wedding Tour and at the Snohomish Farmers Market.
She parlayed that experience into renting a commercial kitchen off-hours. A few months in, a colleague asked Anderson what her long term goals were. She realized she wanted to expand and build a team.
She turned to Ventures in the hopes of funding, but came away with a wealth of knowledge on business administration and ongoing support.
“Once you’re a client, you’re a client for life. They tell you that every step of the way,” she said.
After completing the business basics course, Anderson signed on to many others, including a 12-week marketing class.
Her branding was solid, but when it came to marketing, “what I was doing wasn’t working,” she said bluntly.
In addition to help growing her customer base, Anderson also appreciated how Ventures gave her the opportunity to help her fellow students in areas she was strong in, and to make friends in the business community.
For Jelinek, who is in a cost-intensive business where expensive equipment and high labor costs are inevitable, cashflow was a concern.
“The two biggest (benefits) were in the goal setting, you always have goals in your head, but now it’s a (formal) process I do … that and understanding my break even points,” Jelinek said.
She’s proud that through her efforts, she is able to offer employees health care and retirement benefits, plus paid sick days and holidays. Now, she’s looking to expand operations. She attends Ventures’ legal clinics and brown-bag lunch seminars. She credits the program and mentorship she’s received with helping her navigate problems and keep on top of important metrics.
The Ventures business basics program costs between $50 and $200 depending on income. The agency serves clients who often have difficulty obtaining “traditional business development services,” it says, including women, people of color, immigrants and low-income individuals.
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