A free business-training class sponsored by the city and private companies aims to lower the failure rate of first-time business owners.
The Entrepreneurial Training Program run by Charo Community Development Corp. held a graduation ceremony June 30 for 44 of its students, among them business owners and people who had not yet started their own businesses.
The 10-week program discusses permits, taxes, securing a business loan, employee guidelines, record keeping, marketing and business law.
"We're making the learning curve much shorter," said Cynthia Flores, vice president of Charo and a designer of the program that has enrolled 57 so far. "You don't have to learn everything through the school of hard knocks."
Specialists in different fields, such as marketing, business law and banking, bring their expertise to the class from time to time.
Leslie Diaz, 23, who lives in El Sereno, took the course with her boyfriend Luis Uridiales, 24, of East Los Angeles. They are starting a lingerie business called Cupid's Closet.
The course taught them the hands-on, step-by-step process of researching business names and filing a petition for their own. Now they are working on the design of their business cards and stationery, and hope to start making contacts for buyers of their products.
The course taught them to plan ahead for economic hard times and dissuaded them from opening a store because they cannot afford it right now.
"I didn't know where to begin or how to get my petitions in," Diaz said. "I was going crazy about those things and didn't know who to ask about it."
At the end of the summer, they plan to assess their business and make any necessary changes.
Luz Granados, 34, had started her International Travel agency three months before she learned of the course, but signed up when she decided she could learn from it.
Probably the most valuable information she found concerned low-interest business loans available for minorities. "I had no idea they were out there," she said.
She also has learned how to make contacts with organizations that steer business her way.
Other people learn that the business world is not for them.
"Some people will go through the class and say, 'Wow, this is more than I want to do right now.' And that's important because they might find out there's no market for (their product)," Flores said.
Flores is evaluating the program and wants to start an alumni group that will be offered training in legal issues, marketing and taxes.
The program costs $150,000 annually to operate and is offered to people living in the Eastside regardless of income.
The next 10-week session will begin in late July or mid-August, Flores said. The sessions take three hours per week.
Information: (213) 269-0751.