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New group of entrepreneurs graduate from MAP class

Photos by Ginny Kropf: The graduating class of the latest Microenterprise Assistance Program gathered outside the Village Inn before dinner Tuesday night to see the mobile wood-fired pizza truck Brian and Rebecca Alexander of Albion propose to operate after graduating from the program.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 5 June 2019 at 7:35 am

Brian Alexander checks the temperature of the oven in his mobile wood-fired pizza truck during a demonstration for graduates of the latest MAP class.

ALBION – The latest class to graduate from Orleans Economic Development’s Microenterprise Assistance Program bring a wide variety of new business ideas to the table.

With Diane Blanchard as manager of the Microenterprise Assistance Program, nine of the 11 graduates shared their business plans during graduation Tuesday night at the Village Inn.

Also attending the graduation were Richard Petitte and Sam Campanella with the Small Business Development Center; Jon Costello, a SCORE mentor; County Legislator Ken DeRoller; and Paul Hendel, chairman of the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

A former graduate of the class, Laura Kemler, with her husband Kevin, talked to the class about how MAP helped her grow a successful business on Main Street in Albion, selling her hand-crafted, kitchen-inspired goods.

She advised graduates to use their mentors for advice.

“Find someone in your field who has gone before you,” she said. “Try and find wholesalers for all your products and make sure your customer service is stellar.”

Rick and Michelle Gallo of Holley, who graduated from MAP a year ago, were also on hand to share their good news. After taking the MAP class, they opened a very successful hauling business, and just a few weeks ago completed the purchase of a junkyard.

“Because of what I learned in the Microenterprise class, I wrote a business plan which blew the pants off my banker and we got a loan for the junkyard,” Michelle said.

Diane Blanchard, manager of Microenterprise Assistance Program, talks to Michael Blosenhauer of Holley prior to graduation ceremonies Tuesday at the Village Inn. Blosenhauer is hoping to open a grocery store in his home town in coming months.

Graduates who shared their business plans were Michael Blosenhauer of Holley, who hopes to open a grocery store in his home town; Joseph Quill, who wants to expand the diesel repair shop he runs in Barre Center with his son Mike; Missy Rusin of Brockport, who proposes to run a record keeping and consulting business for child care providers; Lorie Soule of Waterport, with 30 years of experience as a notary public, who proposes a notary-on-demand service;

Natasha Wasuck, who with her husband John Hernandez, is opening a wedding/event venue and ice cream parlor on the Erie Canal in Albion; Jennifer Beherns of Scottsville, who has 14 years experience in medical billing and wants to start her own ambulance billing service; Lauren Blair, who was employed at the Whole Approach Health and Wellness Center in Holley and has now purchased the business; James Kusmierczak of Medina, who discovered the benefits of hemp after having pancreatitis and now hopes to begin by selling it online, followed by the eventual opening of a brick and mortar store; and Rebecca and Kevin Alexander of Albion who have built a mobile wood-fired pizza truck.

The Alexanders brought their truck to the Village Inn, where MAP graduates got a first-hand look at the wood-fired oven and how as many as six pizzas can be cooked at once. They have used it in their back yard to cook everything from pizza to the Thanksgiving turkey, Rebecca said. They traveled to Colorado to learn the business and have spent the last six months perfecting their own recipes.

They plan to take the mobile pizza truck to farmers’ markets, private parties and special events.

Each of the graduates shared how much money they would need for start-up costs and what they hoped to borrow in low-interest loans.

Michael Webster and Dorothy Daniels also completed the MAP class but weren’t at the graduation ceremony.

Graduates of the recent Microenterprise Assistance Program posed for this picture during graduation ceremonies Tuesday at the Village Inn. Seated, from left, are Dick Petitte with the Small Business Development Center; Orleans Legislator Ken DeRoller; Diane Blanchard, manager of MAP; Sam Campanella with the Small Business Development Center; and Jon Costello, a certified SCORE mentor. At rear are, from left, Lorie Soule, Michael Blosenhaur, Jim Kusmierczak, Joe Quill, Jennifer Beherns, Natasha Wasuck, Rebecca Alexander, Lauren Blair  and Missy Rusin.

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