SOMERSET, KY – Successful entrepreneurs are not made. They can be inspired, talent-driven and, sometimes, born out of necessity. But what happens when you work with folks who display all three of these characteristics and offer them free training and hope for a better future? Three regional nonprofits are combining their efforts to find out.
Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) and The Fletcher Group worked with nearly 40 men and women who are currently receiving treatment in five different recovery centers across Southern and Eastern Kentucky this fall via Zoom meetings.
The purpose of the project is to increase the chances of success for individuals recovering from Substance Use Disorder and Opioid Use Disorder by providing them the tools, information, and resources they need to start their own business, according to SKED Small Business Training Director and founder of Be Boss Online Amanda Kelly.
The results are promising, she said.
“It can be difficult for recovering individuals to find meaningful employment,” Kelly explained. “The opportunity to start and grow their own business gives some of them an option for a steady income and improves their odds of success in recovery.”
Participants received eight hours of classroom instruction, a workbook, supplemental materials and eight hours of video training. After the instruction was completed, the participants competed in a capstone project where they were divided into groups and helped to complete a business plan and pitch it to a panel of judges.
EKCEP and The Fletcher Group combined two sources of funding to complete the training. Funding came from an Appalachian Regional Commission Power Grant and a grant from the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP).
As Director of Employment Services for The Fletcher Group, Lori Baier participated in the training’s implementation.
“There is an abundance of talent within the recovery community, and this training has allowed those talents to shine. Our partnership with SKED and EKCEP has given these individuals a very valuable training and – most importantly – hope for a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities.”Lori Baier, Fletcher group Director of employment services
The Fletcher Group, a nonprofit based in London, Ky. is a three-year-old organization that provides technical assistance to rural communities whose efforts to help those with opioid and other substance use disorders can benefit significantly from safe, sustainable recovery housing and other best practice services.
In addition to their classroom and video training, the participants will have access to SKED’s free services for additional assistance in the future. Each participant received a certificate of completion for both Entrepreneurial SMARTS and Be Boss Online.
“This project has been amazing. Over the course of six weeks, 39 people have worked together to start six different businesses, all of which will help support the recovery centers that are helping them,” Kelly said.
“Each group developed their own business idea, wrote a business plan, put together a pitch deck and presented in front of a panel of judges. Each and every group did a fantastic job and presented very viable business ideas,” she added. “The amount of effort and determination displayed by each group was awesome. I am so proud of everyone involved, and I am excited to see where they take these new ideas.”
EKCEP Project Director Melissa Quillen worked with the venture’s administration and had the opportunity to review each participant’s presentation.
“This is one of the projects that I am most proud to have been a part of,” Quillen said. “Providing this type of training could make all the difference for people struggling to get back on their feet.”
EKCEP helps workers and businesses in Eastern Kentucky meet the challenges & seize the opportunities of today’s economy. Headquartered in Hazard, Ky., EKCEP serves a population of nearly one-half million in 23 counties in the Appalachian mountains.