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A Path of Encouragement

For Minority Start-Ups No Shortage of Helping Hands

September 03, 1997

Stan Myles' municipal job was eliminated in 1995, just after he had bought a house and was preparing to marry his fiancee, E. Carol Standifer, a teacher. When Myles began to search for a new job, he realized there was no publication that listed employment specifically targeting women and minorities. But when he and Standifer made the decision to start such a publication, many people told them they would never get any help from the government. So they decided to find out for themselves. Myles was interviewed by free-lance writer Karen E. Klein.


When we told people that we had decided to start a business and were going to try to get help from the U.S. Small Business Administration, a lot of them said, "Oh, no, that's not going to fly."

I think minorities in general, and African Americans in particular, have negative perceptions from the past. If their uncle or mother tried to start a business and did not get any help, that perception is passed down.

Both of us, in the past, had opened businesses and had never even applied for SBA loans because we assumed nothing would be available for minorities. We had never written business plans because we figured there wasn't enough time for all that. But when you jump into something without preparing, you usually bang your head.

I think a lot depends on how motivated you are. For us, a clock was ticking. Especially after you get to a certain age, you know you don't have a lot of time to fool around.

We found that a variety of resources are available that created a path for us to follow. We could not believe all the people willing to share their time and information with us and all the resources targeted at women and minorities.

We started by visiting the SBA's Business Information Center on Wilshire Boulevard, and we talked to their SCORE [Service Corps of Retired Executives] representatives. They referred us to the counselors at their Small Business Development Centers for help with our business plan.

Those counselors told us exactly what we needed to do. We went home and did the work, then we brought it back and they checked it.

Putting those numbers down on paper was the hard part.

"You mean I have to count more than my fingers and toes? Make projections and fill out financial statements? Oh, no!" All those things were foreign to us in many ways.

But we just decided we were going to change that mind set. We had a computer spreadsheet, and we sat down and said, "I love these numbers. These numbers are our friends."

And after a period of time, they truly became that. If you are putting modest projections together with reasonable growth, and you can see that over three years you can make $200,000 or $500,000 a year, you say, "This is not so bad!"

As we got into the small-business arena, we discovered more resources, including private ones like the entrepreneurship class sponsored by First AME Church. We learned a lot there, and we made a lot of great contacts.

We worked on our business plan a good eight months. When things got kind of bogged down in one Small Business Development Center, we went to others.

Once our paperwork was together and our business plan was really tight, they [the SBDC] rolled out the red carpet for us. We got a start-up loan from California United Bank for $40,000 that helped us begin publishing in January 1996.

We learned that the doors are out there, and they can be opened with determination and a lot of work. No one guarantees that you will be successful, but if you take this on as a labor of love and you have passion about what you are doing, you can succeed.


At a Glance

* Company: Diversity Plus Classifieds

* Owners: Stan Myles and E. Carol Standifer

* Nature of business: Monthly newspaper on employment recruitment and workplace diversity

* Location: 6820 La Tijera Blvd., Suite 208B, Los Angeles

* Founded: 1996

* Employees: 3

* Annual revenue: $70,000

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