10 entrepreneurs graduate from small business class

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – A new class graduated from the Microenterprise Assistance Program on Tuesday. The group includes, front row, from left: Amanda Wolford, Justin Froman, Jenny Rae Siplo, Christine Heideman, and Linda Benz. Back row: Shaun Swanson, small business advisor Dick Pettine, Michael Klepp, Rion Pawlak, Janell Thompson, Charlene Washington and Diane Blanchard, MAP manager.

ALBION – A 10-week class has given a new group of entrepreneurs tips in taxes, marketing, legal issues, handling stress, computers and bookkeeping – all factors that are key to running successful businesses.

The Fall 2015 class of the Microenterprise Assistance Program graduated on Tuesday with a celebration at Tillman’s Village Inn. More than 400 entrepreneurs have completed the program since 1999.

“I want to say, thank you for having the courage and tenacity to step up and own your own business,” Paul Hendel, chairman of the Orleans Economic Development Agency, told the new MAP graduates.

The program is run through the EDA with classes in the fall and spring. Graduates who complete business plans may pursue low-interest financing up to $30,000 through the EDA.

“The sole proprietor is the backbone of the economy in Orleans County, New York State and across the whole nation,” Hendel said.

The fall graduates include: Linda Benz, consultant for office management; Justin Froman, road kill removal; Christine Heideman, gourmet cupcakes; Michael Klepp, The Plant Man; Rion Pawlak, vapor shop (plastic cigarettes) or food truck; Jenny Rae Siplo, Flower Well; Shaun Swanson, Filmwell Studios; Janell Thompson, Marva’s Clothes & Beauty Supplies; Charlene Washington, 3 Twice (information technology); and Amanda Wolford, retail.

Klepp has been running his “Plant Man” business for 27 years, providing horticulture advice and training. The West Shelby resident, 44, is considering whether to build a barn on his property for teaching programs – “anything garden related,” he said.

He also is thinking about growing his business and adding an employee. The MAP class helped him look into the future, calculating expenses and needed revenue.

Jenny Rae Siplo, 24, of Holley started her floral design business in May, providing flowers for weddings, events and florists. The MAP class helped her to plan for growing the business.

Jenny Rae Siplo accepts her certificate for completing the 10-week MAP class from Diane Blanchard, manager of the program.

Janell Thompson opened Marva’s Clothes & Beauty Supplies on Sept. 1 on East Bank Street in Albion. Thompson said the MAP class has been an “eye opener” to create a business plan and tailor the store’s hours and products to customers.

She is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. She decided to close on Monday and open later in the day after hearing from customers and noticing shopping trends.

She sells clothes, shoes, perfume, hair products, and homemade jewelry. The store is named in her mother’s honor.

“The store is something my mom always wanted,” Thompson said. “It was her dream.”

Justin Froman, 32, of Albion read a news article about two years ago, detailing how municipalities try to get rid of roadkill. Froman read that article and saw an opportunity for a business.

Next year will will start his venture where he will pick up deer and other dead animals along roadways. He will then compost them. He is looking for his first contract and hopes to start the business in January.

Rion Pawlak accepts his certificate for completing the MAP class.

Rion Pawlak has two business ideas: starting a food truck that he can take to events and locations in Orleans County and beyond, and also opening a Vape Shop with plastic cigarettes and vaping supplies.

Pawlak, 34, said the MAP class helped him to research and understand regulations and insurance with owning a business.

“The biggest thing the class gave me is confidence,” he said.

He expects to be in business by next summer.

“I’m taking the winter to get the finances together and to build an unstoppable plan,” Pawlak said.