Sunday, May 23, 1999

ENTREPRENEURS


Companies brought to NxLevel

BY JOHN ECKBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Gregory Christmon knew the checks were coming into his painting company at a decent pace, but the accounting system in place to keep track of the cash needed some help.

        Mr. Christmon, the 35-year-old owner of G.L. Christmon Custom Painting Co., enrolled in a NxLevel Entrepreneur Training class at the Cincinnati Business Incubator during the winter to learn how to refine his business and maybe drive more profit from the work coming his way. He was one of nine graduates from the 1999 class on entrepreneurism last month.

        “I'll be very honest,” Mr. Christmon said. “They showed me a structure of business in a manner that a lot of small businesses miss. There were so many different things I could have been doing, and the reorganization of my business has allowed me to make more money.”

        Encouraging bootstrap entrepreneurs with enhanced training, marketing advice, loan suggestions and other aspects of small-business planning was the goal of the incubator's NxLevel Entrepreneurial Training Program, Incubator CEO Annette Smith Tarver said.

        The challenge for the Cincinnati Business Incubator is difficult because its target population might not have a deep business background.

        The Cincinnati incubator was chosen as a pilot project for NxLevel from dozens of other cities in 25 states because it has space for new businesses as well as follow-up counseling and the opportunity to raise capital through small loans.

        NxLevel curriculum was developed by the Western Entrepreneurial Network at the University of Colorado at Denver.

        “I have a (financial) system now,” Mr. Christmon said. “If I do a job and money comes in, instead of taking it to the bank, I have a procedure about how it is distributed. Everything is marked down.”

        Among the other important lessons Mr. Christmon learned was that expertise can be found and a company that needs it can buy the talent.

        “What NxLevel taught me was that you find out there are things you were doing and might not have been good at, so maybe you need to hire somebody,” he said.

        “Another thing you learn from people in the class is that we all make mistakes. They have had similar problems, and it makes you feel good to know that somebody has had the same problem.”

        Seminars covered a broad swath of business issues for start-ups, including developing concepts, business fundamentals, marketing strategies, budgeting, raising money and managing the future.

        “The most important thing is that people had an opportunity to examine their market and see if their products have a fit, if there are customers,” Ms. Smith Tarver said. “They also received some financial information that we hope is helpful because that's where most businesses fail.”

        Mr. Christmon has already put his training to work. “Organization is a big key,” he said. “You have to make everything you do be more accountable.”

        John Eckberg covers small-business news for the Enquirer. Have a small-business question, concern or quandary? E-mail him at jeckberg@enquirer.com, and he will find the expert with the answers.

       



Blue Chip Venture Co. ascends into cyberspace
Wanted: Drug testers
- Companies brought to to NxLevel
Chamber lauds ingenuity, service
SMALL-BUSINESS DIARY
Tech firms courting senior citizens
Ever-beloved typewriters hang on
The power behind portals
TIPSHEET
PRICIEST HOMES