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Council to hold hearing on funding small business training program

When James Betterson was struggling as a new laundromat owner, he sought assistance by tapping into Power Up Your Business, a free training program offered by Community College of Philadelphia (CCP).

“I went in with the idea of just getting some overall business acumen with a special interest in some of marketing concepts just to try to get my business off to a better start,” he said.

Betterson spent 10 weeks in 2018 learning basic business management, planning and marketing skills, and getting support from business coaches. He said, “I was able to learn some stuff, affirm some things that I was doing right and correct somethings that I was doing wrong, be energized, have more confidence and was able to come back and attack my business and saw growth of 37 percent.”

Betterson will join other graduates, business leaders and economic development specialists Tuesday in testifying before City Council’s Committee on Commerce and Economic Development. The hearing will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Council Chambers.

City Council helped establish the Power Up program in 2017 with a three-year commitment of $800,000 for all three years and the committee will determine whether to extend that funding.

CCP and Councilwoman Cherelle Parker worked to create Power Up in response to needs of the merchants, restaurants and retail stores in commercial corridors.

Power Up has helped hundreds of small businesses in nearly in every ZIP code in Philadelphia. Thus far, 120 businesses have completed the 10-week peer-based cohort. Eight hundred and six people attended a Storefront Workshop Series and 529 business owners attended the community and partnership workshops. More than 84 percent of participants have been people of color while nearly 71 percent have been women.

“The goals of the program are really to be as inclusive and reach into neighborhoods and reach businesses that wouldn’t normally seek these kind of services and I think that we are doing an excellent job,” said Carol de Fries, vice president for Workforce and Economic Innovation at CCP.

“I think that it will have a long term impact on the city of Philadelphia in terms of growth in revenue, growth in jobs and the ability of these small businesses.”

She noted more than 60 percent of the business owners who have participated in the program come from low income communities and almost 50 percent are located on commercial corridors.

“I’m just proud of the success of the program but now the funding is expiring so now we have to find a way through this upcoming budget cycle to figure out how we can continue funding the program,” Parker said.

She views the Power Up program as an initiative that empowers small businesses with the technical assistance needed to help them grow.

“If we want to be a pro-growth city, pro-growth can’t just be about Center City,” Parker stressed.

“Pro-growth has to find its way into the veins of our neighborhoods, which extend from our commercial corridors and our corner stores. If we’re being pro-growth and it’s not reaching into every community and every neighborhood, there is something wrong.”

Betterson said Power Up helped him in Northeast Philadelphia.

“I grew up as a kid going to these old, dingy laundromats with broken lights so I was just excited about being able to bring a nice laundromat to the community and put my brand on it and having the opportunity to return to Philly,” said Betterson, a 64-year-old native of High Point, N.C.

But from the day he opened the laundromat’s doors in March 2016, he said, he was “just kind of sputtering and after a year and a half still in that position, I started to question myself and started to lose confidence.”

Betterson said Power Up gave him the tools and guidance he needed to make BetterClean a better business.

“Just going through the process helped me tremendously,” he said.

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